“You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on You,
because he trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3–ESV).
Stayed–v. (past tense) to continue or remain in a place.
It’s one of the first commands many dog owners teach their pups–
Among others, like “Sit!” or “Shake!” this one not only demonstrates a dog’s intelligence, but it can also serve as a protective measure. Take, for example, a dog owner preparing to cross the street to visit a neighbor. He or she may say to the faithful shadow below–
The dog’s obedience can determine life or death, as its owner steps off the curb and jogs across, avoiding oncoming cars.
Heeding the command, the pup will enjoy its person’s eventual return. Not heeding, however, may result in this furry friend being injured or, worse, killed.
That’s just the truth.
My family was heartbroken to hear that many service men and women had to leave their canine comrades behind when they left Kabul’s airport for the last time on August 31st. We wondered why? Why couldn’t these faithful friends, heroes in their own right, withdraw as well?
We ache for the owners of these abandoned dogs, knowing they must be heartbroken at having to leave them in harm’s way after all the comfort these friends provided, not to mention the protection they offered.
Furthermore, personifying as I’m prone to do, I’ve imagined the dogs wondering themselves, waiting for and whining about these missing loved ones. Perhaps their owners’ words have rung in their ears–
And so they do, making them targets for terrorists who’ve promised to annihilate anyone who aided the enemy. After all, why would the Taliban do otherwise? These dogs mean nothing to them and likely pose a threat. It’s heart-wrenching to think about, the kind of thing that causes my heart to palpitate in the middle of the night when I wake, feeling the weight of heaviness on my chest.
And this is nothing compared to the sorrow we feel for all the people left behind–those men, women, and children who either weren’t able to make it to the airport or were turned away once there, even with all the proper documentation. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, now hiding, afraid for their lives. Why? Because, despite their desire to leave Afghanistan, many of them were made to–
And now their lives are in danger. Thoughts of them as we writhe in wet bedclothes, our worry enough to be wrung from night shirts, keep us awake, watching the clock. 3:30. 4:00. 6:00–until it’s time to drag ourselves from bed. Whether we welcome it or not, the new day begins, though our angst isn’t soothed with the rising sun. Because we simply cannot–
Duties call, and we’re forced to withdraw from the safety of our comforters, face the fact that so much of life’s brokenness is out of our control.
And sometimes we, too, feel as though we’re going to break, envisioning our shards in shambles, tossed atop that growing pile of all that’s not right in this world. Sometimes we can’t help it, and we weep–our tears coming in torrents because they’ve built up by our breaking hearts. Though we fight to hold them back, they simply won’t…
I’ve been there, a lot lately. Have you?
- The death of a loved one.
- The broken relationship.
- The suffering of the infirmed.
- The displaced neighbor.
- The abandoned child.
And these are just those sorrows close to home. What about the suffering all around us–wildfires, hurricanes and tropical storms, terrorism resulting in torture and death, and, perhaps worse, the fear that takes up residence within the minds of those who, in waiting, wonder what will happen next–to them, to their loved ones.
As I was driving home this morning, the weight of worry so heavy, I heard a whisper–an echo of words I’d hidden in my heart some years ago.
“You keep [her] in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because [she] trusts in You.”
And I instantly felt that nudge of conviction–not guilt but, rather, that which leads to repentance, which leads to confession, which leads to forgiveness… which leads to peace. And all because my worry had kept me from prayer.
The word that jumped out?
The idea? To remain in that place. That place in which to remain? God’s presence. And for what purpose? To be kept in perfect peace. And the vehicle? Prayer.
We cannot change the events unfolding in Afghanistan–though we can seek ways to voice our concerns, our anger even, about the atrocities we’re seeing. Above all, we can pray.
We cannot change the course of wildfires in the west or redirect the course of tropical storms. But we can pray.
We can’t do anything about dogs abandoned in the airport in Kabul or, most important, people left behind in enemy territory. But we can pray.
Close to home, we can provide supplies for the displaced, send a card to the sick or the bereaved, and offer words of encouragement to anyone who is sad or lonely. And we can… pray.
To pray is to stay–to remain in God’s presence and, there, find peace as we trust the One whose heart, above all, is breaking over all the world’s brokenness. Though it’s no surprise to Him, it’s not as He intended, not as it will one day be.
For now, we’ve been called to…
We’ve been called to…
And in doing so, though we may feel like we return to Him over and over again, we’re promised His protective measure of peace, which cycles back to prayer as we remain in His presence. He never tires of us, and He’s the only Source of comfort for a world in such chaos.
Let it be so.
- How do you guard your thoughts when you struggle to keep peace, the ugliness all around attempting to hold you captive, vying for your attention? Is there a favorite passage of scripture you claim? A particular prayer you pray?
- Have you considered praying with others or journaling? These outlets and accountability often prove helpful.
Dear, Merciful Savior, please be near. We miss You. We need You. We’re desperate for You. Amen.