According to the dictionary, risk is the potential of losing something which we value. This can be, but is not limited to, possessions or our physical well-being.
For any cross-cultural worker, the first risk we face is choosing to move into the unknown. As we disembark from the flight which carried us to our destination, we walk into a place foreign to us and hear a language we are unfamiliar with. Each day we face the unspoken question:
Are we willing to trust our Father when risk is knocking on our front door?
For the first time in the six years we had been overseas a retreat was coming directly to the city where my husband, three daughters and I live. The retreat director and I had met at another retreat a few years back so I was one of her local contacts. You would think this would induce excitement, but in the months leading up to the event, I felt anxious every time I thought about it. In all honesty, I considered not going and gifting my deposit to someone else. It was an ongoing conversation with my husband and with God as I psyched myself up to attend.
The week of the retreat arrived and I decided to go knowing that my anxiety was not coming from God. The first night was a time to get settled into our rooms and our small groups. After sharing the heart and purpose of the retreat, including the theme verse of Zephaniah 3:17, the director gave us time for prayer and reflection, a time to prepare our hearts for what God would show us during our time together. During that time I grabbed my Bible and read the theme verse in context. As I was reading, verse fifteen stood out to me:
“The Lord has taken away the judgments against you;
he has cleared away your enemies.
The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst;
you shall never again fear evil.”
– Zephaniah 3:15
I knew in the moment that God was sharing that verse with me. My husband and I commonly deal with fear in our environment. Our neighborhood has a notorious reputation with police helicopters regularly flying over at night to maintain peace between the local gangs, the local authorities have a strong reputation and no one on our campus, local or foreign, is encouraged to walk outside after dark.
At the end of the evening I returned to my room and called my family to say good night. I was shocked to hear their news (which my husband was going to keep from me until I returned home but the kids spilled!). During the day a group of local dr*g authorities had shown up unannounced to do a thorough search of our campus. According to them we had been “denounced,” accused of fabricating dr*gs on our property (something that has happened in our local neighborhood). Search dog and all, they entered all of the public buildings and searched every vehicle on campus. To say our staff was surprised is an understatement. The question was even asked, “How do we know you are who you say you are?” After their search, they left without a word of what might happen next.
That night as I talked to my husband, I shared with him the verse God had shared with me. We prayed together and said good night. The peace I felt in that moment was a gift from God. I sat there thinking and praying, realizing that if I had given in to my anxieties leading up to the retreat, I too would have been on campus when the authorities arrived. The tension and the fear would have put my stomach in knots and I can imagine the sleepless night I would have endured. Instead God graciously placed me in a group of women who know such fears personally, women who were able to pray with me and encourage me.
Returning home at the end of the retreat I continued to be filled with a supernatural peace. To this day we do not know who accused us. We are very thankful that nothing more was said or done on the matter. Yet we live with the knowledge that the risk is real. But each time fear arises I need to remind myself that I have no need to fear evil again, the King of Israel is with me.
Come what may, He is by my side.
I shall never again fear evil.
What verses do you turn to when you face a risk?