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My Bible study group assignment was to read Psalm 91 and express how it had been true in my life.

"He will rescue you from every trap and protect you from the fatal plague. … For he orders his angels to protect you wherever you go. They will hold you with their hands to keep you from striking your foot on a stone." [All Scripture citations from the New Living Translation.]

At first blush it sounds really good, but that day I had to say what I really thought. Through tears I told the group, "I don't get how this is true. He did not rescue us from a fatal plague. He did not keep us from striking our feet on a stone but, in fact, allowed much worse than that."

In the year preceding we had buried my daughter, Hope, who was born with a rare metabolic disorder and had a short and difficult life. At that low point in my grief, I simply wasn't willing to gloss over the nice-sounding verse. I couldn't reconcile this passage with my experience, with reality. But I wanted to. I wanted to figure out how the scriptural promises of protection apply not only to me, but also to anyone who suffers, especially now, the thousands who have endured homelessness, disease, and death in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. I wanted to know, Can I expect God to protect me? And if not, what are these promises of protection in the Bible all about?

Our True Enemy

I began in the Psalms, because they are filled with requests for and proclamations of divine protection. Most of them have to do with protection from "my enemies." For example, Psalm 59:9-10 reads, "You are my strength; I wait for you to rescue me, for you, O God, are my place of safety. In his unfailing love, my God will come and help me. He will let me look down in triumph on all my enemies." ...

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October 2005

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