God’s Presence in the Shade and in the Shadows

July 8, 2016  |  Craig St. John

By Deana Rogers

I can’t get my mind off of the Preemptive Love families and workers who have been risking their lives to be the hands and feet of Jesus in Bagdad and Fallujah these past couple weeks. My heart can’t begin to feel the loss of the families of the International Justice Mission workers who were abducted and killed last week trying to advocate for peace in Kenya. I keep thinking about how God is present in the shade and in the shadows, but the shadows of these servants seem so dark. I am trying to figure out how to pray that somehow, in places like Iraq and Kenya, where it must feel like sin is winning, these people we wire money to from our kitchen tables and pray for in our backyard tents really know the presence of God in those dark and scary places.

The Preemptive Love workers literally walked through the valley of the shadow of death last weekend as the supply trucks they were driving into Fallujah got stuck in huge muddy ruts, and the workers hid in ditches on the side of the road, hoping to avoid being seen by ISIS attackers. Other members of their team were held up at a checkpoint and subsequently caught in the midst of an airstrike. They have all, by God’s mercy and protection, returned safely back to Bagdad, but I can’t think of a better description of the valley of the shadow of death. You can read their story here.

The International Justice Mission lost a worker, a client, and a taxi driver last week. Peacemaking ended in horrific tragedy. But even in death, evil is not getting the last word.

As a church, we are learning to pray this summer from Israel’s prayer book, the book of Psalms. Israel was living in exile, driven from their homeland by war, and the Psalms taught them how to pray with honesty and authenticity. They learned to find hope in Yahweh, the God of their ancestors. Can Psalm 23 help us learn to pray for the Preemptive Love team and International Justice Mission workers?

Yahweh God,

We know of so many people that are risking their lives on front lines to show refugees your love in tangible ways, and to fight for justice and peace for the oppressed.  We pray for courage and safety and hope, and that your name would be honored among the people they serve.

With David we pray that they would know

That you LORD are their shepherd and protector.

There is no place of refuge that is better than your presence.

Give them peaceful and deep rest in the safe dwelling places you find for them

And lead them to quiet spots in the midst of their chaotic work.

Be the restorer of their souls.

Continue to lead them into good work

so that your name may be honored in these hard places.

Even when they find themselves hidden in roadside ditches to escape gunfire

Or abducted at gun point and beaten by their oppressors,

Replace the fear of evil that surges through them with the knowledge of your presence. Stand up for them like you did for Stephen (Acts 7:56).

Remind them that the rod in your hand still fights the enemy

And your guiding staff keeps them on the right path.

Be their comforter.

We are so grateful for the peacemaking tables you prepare for them in the presence of enemies.

Refresh and nourish their bodies and souls with your overflowing care for them.

May your abundant goodness and loving mercy be the wind at their backs every single day of their lives

And now and through eternity, in the shade and in the shadows, may they be continually aware that they dwell in your presence forever.

In the name of Jesus, our Good Shepherd, we pray,

Amen.