Lent Devotions: Protection of God

Design by Doug Puller/Bread for the World.

Editor’s note: This Lent season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals written by staff, alumni, and friends of the San Francisco Theological Seminary, which is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). 

By Lora East  

Psalm 91: 1-2, 9-16          

Let me get this straight.

I trust in God.


No evil will come to me. 

No harm will come to my house. 
The angels of God will guard me. 
I can encounter wild beasts, and be safe.

The list goes on. How can this possibly be true?? What I hear the Psalmist promising me is safety, security, deliverance in times of trouble because I have faith in God.

My immediate reaction to the Psalmist is to laugh. Actually, it is to guffaw, to scoff, to derisively say, “Are you serious? Who believes in this nonsense? I DO trust in God! I DO find shelter and refuge in God, in the Holy One who supposedly brings this protection! And yet… evil DOES befall my community. Harm DOES touch my house. I look around for angels and see no one. And let’s get real about those wild beasts — I live in Marin County, where I never want to encounter a mountain lion, let alone a neighborhood skunk! Protection of God, indeed.”

And if we look to the author to whom this Psalm is attributed, King David, his life definitely was not free from evil and harm. A friend said to me as I discussed this passage, “Jesus trusted in God. And that led him straight to the cross.” Protection of God, indeed.

In a rebellious streak I declare that our faith in God does not protect us from the realities of life on this earth. We trust in God with no guarantees that it will lead to our lives being saved from sorrow or pain. Our trust in God comes with no guarantees.

So why trust in God?

Maybe we need to think differently about guarantees. What ideas of guaranteed protection do we need to turn away from, and what ideas do we need to turn toward? Jesus walked freely to the cross knowing that he had lived a life serving the least of these and knowing that it was in God whom he could ultimately trust, not in this life of turmoil and pain. We trust in God not because we believe in the protection of our physical beings, but because we believe in the protection of our hearts, our integrity, our dignity, our relationships, our authenticity, and our souls. We trust in God because we believe that God’s deliverance comes not from ways that we expect, but from the unexpected, the surprising, the light in the dark. And we trust in God because we believe that freedom ultimately comes from God: freedom to love, freedom to live, freedom to dwell in the presence of the Almighty forever and ever. Protection of God, indeed. 

Lora East is pursuing a Master of Divinity degree at San Francisco Theological Seminary.

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