After a lot of prayer, and being sure God was leading us, Sarah and I moved to Jacksonville, Florida in July of 2004. We’re both from West Michigan, so the move would take us far from both of our families. It was an intimidating move to make, especially as two 22-year olds. We would truly be on our own, forced to be all grown up. We were sure it was God’s call, though, so we did it.
I remember before we left, when we let our families know that we were going to go, several asked us about going where there were hurricanes. Weren’t we scared? I hadn’t really thought about it, honestly. I sent my friend an e-mail and asked him if they got hit by many hurricanes down there, and he assured me that they hadn’t been hit even once in the few years he’d been down there. That calmed me down about it. But our families weren’t as calm about it. Sarah’s dad gave us a weather radio, so we could listen for hurricane warnings, because he was still pretty nervous.
My mom isn’t the calmest mom. Some would say she was mildly overprotective of us. So I was pretty surprised by how unafraid she seemed. I wasn’t offended that she wasn’t losing her mind, but I was suprised, because I fully expected her to lose it. I asked her why she wasn’t freaking out, given who she is. She said, “I figure the safest place you can be is in the center of God’s will. You’re safer in Florida- if that’s where God wants you – than you are here.” I was very struck by that. It really impacted me, so much so that I still think about it often 13 years later. I got to see another example of what it means to truly live by faith. And she was right, too. I did make it out alive, despite the hurricanes that did hit while we were there, the despite the biggest cockroaches ever that also happen to fly, despite the violence in the city we lived. We were safe.
I was reminded of this conversation last week. My Bible reading plan had me in Matthew 14. After Jesus had fed the crowed of over 5,000 people, His disciples got in a boat and went to cross the body of water. But a large storm came. They were having trouble due to high winds and heavy waves. Verse 27 says, “But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!”
They didn’t need to be afraid, because Jesus was there. The storm hadn’t stopped. The winds were still blowing. The waves were still crashing. Their circumstances were still the same ones that caused them so much fear, but now they were with Jesus. Their safety had nothing to do with where they were or what was going on. It was all about Who they were with. The safest place you can be, as a Christian, is with Jesus. That doesn’t mean nothing can happen to you that is unpleasant. But it means you will be where God wants you to be, fulfilling the call He has placed on your life, and His presence will be a comfort to you, even in the darkest circumstance.
Psalm 23:4 New Living Translation (NLT)
4 Even when I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
protect and comfort me.