Recently, I was sitting in a car waiting to cross the border to enter the war-torn country of Ukraine. I was thinking, “Tomorrow I will be among and in front of survivors (for today, at least) of the bombs that continue to target the land and homes of those who are attending the seminar. These caregivers are coming with the hope of gleaning tools and skills for dealing with past, present, and ongoing trauma affecting their loved ones, as well as themselves. I found myself pondering Psalm 91; it is a passage from which I have gleaned much comfort over the years. But this particular day, I experienced inner tension rather than comfort around familiar and favorite phrases like, “For He will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence.” Because He didn’t deliver when the Russians invaded and bombed Ukraine. And… “He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you will find refuge,” when He didn’t and there was no refuge. Or, “His faithfulness is a shield and buckler,” when families were gunned down in the streets and snipers shot at those trying to recover the bodies of family and friends, leaving them to the dogs.
And what could I do with, “You will not fear the terror by night, nor the arrow that flies by day…A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you,” or “Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place – the Most High…no evil shall be allowed to befall you…I will protect you…” when so many lost everything but the clothes on their backs?
I felt as though I was dealing with a moral dilemma because the people who suffered (and continue to suffer) these horrible events were coming the next day to gather and try on some tools to help their friends and families deal with the post and current effects of trauma. This is their new normal, while I would only spend a few days with them, then return to my comfortable home in the States, which would most likely be intact when I arrived.
I sat in the car at the border and asked the Lord, “How can I help these precious people who have lost their kitchens and are standing in line outside to receive a hot meal? How can I offer them comfort from the God Who is love and tells them He will protect them when He…You did not?” And I sat. Quietly trying to sort this strange feeling…unfair…unqualified…ill-equipped…? I had not experienced this invasion, this violation of home and country. In a raw sense, I felt that I was protected, and they were not. And I cannot understand the God of Love Whom I trust and believe to be Love…But…
So, I sat…and listened for His voice.
He reminded me that He does not contradict Himself. Ever. So, if He says in His Word that He protects us from evil and from destruction, while I see what appears to be evil and destruction, then things must not always be as they appear. I do not know all things. I am trying to understand Infinite God with my finite mind. So, I do not see the whole picture. I cannot see all the ways He did protect. Nor am I able to know the comfort He provided for those who fell or how He rescued those who survived. I was not there. He was. And my peace lies in trusting the Lord with all my heart, leaning not on my own understanding (Isa. 26:3, Prov. 3:5).
We were permitted to cross the border. For the next two hours, we made our way to the designated church where the three-day seminar was to be held. As we walked toward the building, we could see a white tent set up; the church grounds and buildings were organized to meet the basic needs of people. Here, in the midst of war, was a place of refuge. The hands and feet of Jesus were systematically helping people sort through a small mountain of clothing to find a few pieces adequate for the destitute. More hands and feet with smiling faces bustled through the makeshift dining area with large boxes of food items. And then…the aroma of a hot meal wafting over and through the crowd…the Comforter was on the scene.
I, the unscathed American, took a breath and chose to jump in, determined to offer what I have. Myself. I engaged with a group of about eight Ukrainians. Together, they shared their story, “Bombs were going off everywhere and guns were shooting everywhere and everyone was running, so we all ran.” And in that moment of retelling their shared experience, they stopped and said among themselves, “When we were safe, we stopped and looked at each other and said, ‘We have to go back. We have to go back to help our friends and families.’”
And then one man, the pastor of the flock this remnant represented, looked at me with steady gaze and stated, “It was so strange. When I was running through the fray with guns shooting and bombs exploding all around me, it was as though I was in a bubble, and nothing could touch me. I cannot explain it except that it was God protecting me. Psalm 91 came to me, ‘A thousand shall fall at your side and 10,000 on your right hand, but it will not come nigh you.’ And I want to tell you…not one member of our church lost their homes. Not even one. It was amazing.”
I thank God yet again, for the truth that indeed, things are not always as they appear. There is much more I do not know, that I cannot see. But God…He is Who He says He is. He is Light, and in Him there is no darkness. We cannot afford to doubt. He guards and protects in ways we do not understand and from things we often do not see.
And I thank God for hearing me, hearing us when we pray.
When we ask, we receive. When we seek, we find. When we knock, God opens. Matt 7:8
Jane Phillips, LPC
Since 1982, Jane has worked alongside licensed mental health professionals in various mental health settings. Jane Co-Founded Battlefield Ministries, Inc. with her husband Nathan. She serves as one of the primary staff members in the counseling office and on trips at home and abroad. Jane is an influential speaker and facilitator in women’s ministry and a crucial part of Battlefield’s writing team.