Safe Space

  • Steve Hatter
Adult and little kid walking on a dirt trail

There is a lot of cultural chatter these days about what is safe and unsafe. Within our increasingly self-focused culture, “being safe” has somehow been elevated to the level of a basic human right that should be guaranteed by those in governing positions of authority—as if such a notion were even a true possibility.

In fact, our great American universities have wholesale signed on to the idea that they can create “safe spaces” for students wherein when one is safely inside the safe space, no one will trigger them to emotional or spiritual distress—i.e., threaten their psycho-social balance by daring to disagree with whatever worldview they may hold, or to challenge them in any way regarding the great human questions of right and wrong.

Of course, this is utter nonsense and should be called out as such from every Christian pulpit across the land. Indeed, true growth and clarity come from feeling a little pressure and heat now and then, in honest debate about the meaning of life and what is true, right, and good for every soul. Shielding people, especially young ones, from anything challenging, is abusing them in my book.

So, what does it mean to be safe, anyway? People want physical safety, which I suppose is total protection from physical harm. Truly, the only way to achieve that outcome is to never live at all. The lessons of the Covid pandemic—that the government tried to control the uncontrollable and failed—should ring true here. But beyond that, history is replete with stories of soldiers who defied all the odds on some bloody overseas battlefield, only to return home and suffer death through some “mundane” tragedy like slipping and falling in the shower. In this fallen creation, it is impossible to guarantee physical safety. Period.

People also want emotional safety, wherein no person or situation can ever be allowed to spark the hurt of rejection, judgment, or even simple disagreement. As a parent of five children, I can only laugh at such a notion. Truly, the wise of the world know that our best path in this life is to be challenged to defend our positions, whatever they may be in the moment, and not to be falsely protected within the inauthentic walls of foolishness or immaturity. Truth is always the first casualty when people stop talking.

Finally, people want spiritual safety, which I suppose means that one is never convicted of sin. Feelings of guilt or shame must not be allowed, so say the progressive intellectuals of our day. Again, as a parent, and now as a pastor, I see utter folly here. Indeed, it is the negatives of guilt and shame, when wielded sparingly as loving tools of correction by God Himself, that prove utterly essential to the maturing of a person. A season of discomfort can and does bring true growth. This is axiomatic, because God, just as He promises, seeks to make us more like His perfect Son, Jesus Christ through loving discipline.

Given where the culture is getting it totally wrong, The Bible’s timeless and true idea of safety is expressed boldly and simply. It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ alone that leads to safety, which is also known as eternal salvation. A human being, made in the image of God, by God, and for His perfect purposes is only safe through faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone.

It has been said that Psalm 118 was Martin Luther’s favorite psalm. He wrote (cited by C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David [Baker], 5:337),

“This is my psalm, my chosen psalm. I love them all; I love all holy Scripture, which is my consolation and my life. But this psalm is nearest my heart, and I have a peculiar right to call it mine. It has saved me from many a pressing danger, from which nor emperor, nor kings, nor sages, nor saints, could have saved me. It is my friend; dearer to me than all the honors and power of the earth.”

Luther loved it so much that he put verse 17, “I will not die, but live, and tell of the works of the Lord,” on a plaque on his study wall, where he could see it every day. Many Reformers had been killed. Luther was cheered by this verse, which assured him that he was perfectly safe until his work on earth was done (from Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit [Pilgrim Publications], 38:2).

Here is Psalm 118 (ESV) in its entirety. I encourage you to read it aloud. Pray it back to God. Seek to apply its wonderful truth to your personal circumstances today.  Trust that God alone is your safe space!

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    for his steadfast love endures forever!

Let Israel say,
    “His steadfast love endures forever.”
Let the house of Aaron say,
    “His steadfast love endures forever.”
Let those who fear the Lord say,
    “His steadfast love endures forever.”

Out of my distress I called on the Lord;
    the Lord answered me and set me free.
The Lord is on my side; I will not fear.
    What can man do to me?
The Lord is on my side as my helper;
    I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.

It is better to take refuge in the Lord
    than to trust in man.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
    than to trust in princes.

10 All nations surrounded me;
    in the name of the Lord I cut them off!
11 They surrounded me, surrounded me on every side;
    in the name of the Lord I cut them off!
12 They surrounded me like bees;
    they went out like a fire among thorns;
    in the name of the Lord I cut them off!
13 I was pushed hard, so that I was falling,
    but the Lord helped me.

14 The Lord is my strength and my song;
    he has become my salvation.
15 Glad songs of salvation
    are in the tents of the righteous:
“The right hand of the Lord does valiantly,
16     the right hand of the Lord exalts,
    the right hand of the Lord does valiantly!”

17 I shall not die, but I shall live,
    and recount the deeds of the Lord.
18 The Lord has disciplined me severely,
    but he has not given me over to death.

19 Open to me the gates of righteousness,
    that I may enter through them
    and give thanks to the Lord.
20 This is the gate of the Lord;
    the righteous shall enter through it.
21 I thank you that you have answered me
    and have become my salvation.
22 The stone that the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord’s doing;
    it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 This is the day that the Lord has made;
    let us rejoice and be glad in it.

25 Save us, we pray, O Lord!
    O Lord, we pray, give us success!

26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
    We bless you from the house of the Lord.
27 The Lord is God,
    and he has made his light to shine upon us.
Bind the festal sacrifice with cords,
    up to the horns of the altar!

28 You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;
    you are my God; I will extol you.
29 Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    for his steadfast love endures forever!