When was the last time you got really sunburned?
My wife and I recently spent a week on vacation at a Central American resort. It was on a beautiful, relaxing, all-inclusive, beach-front golfing community so you can imagine the peaceful approach we took to the usual hectic, labor-intensive parts of life — preparing meals, working, thinking…. It was a pampered week of sleeping in, staying up late, lounging around pools, lying in the sun, eating when we wanted to, listening to the crashing waves by the ocean, and calling room service when we were too lazy to go to one of the six fabulous resort restaurants. However, in all that convenience and relaxation, I was reminded of one bold, consistent fact: The sun never takes a vacation.
While lounging under a beach umbrella, I figured I wouldn’t need to apply the usual sunscreen. Hey, I was in the shade! Aside from an arm, shoulder, or foot occasionally straying from the umbrella’s protection, I thought I was safe from the sun’s fierce and unforgiving rays. Around dinner time, I found out just how wrong I had been.
All day, I sported a cool-looking tank top while trying to impress my wife with middle-aged muscularity. Although she may have been impressed by my bared shoulders and arms, the sun glared at them with impartiality. Its rays danced all around — off the water, off the white sand, off the tabletop, everywhere. I was in its domain, yet remained cavalier in my casual exposure to its force. In thinking I was protected by the umbrella, I foolishly neglected the sun’s effects all around me. So my shoulders, that resembled the dual flashing red lights at a railroad crossing sign, were bright red beaming signals of my lack of respect for the elements.
I learned that the soft, pale, unprotected areas took the most impact. See, when I work in the yard at home, I usually wear a tee-shirt. My lower arms have grown accustomed to exposure to the sun. But my shoulders and upper arms that are normally under my shirt and hidden from the sun, well, those were toast.
I tried finding some deeper learning from the experience aside from my wife’s, “Honey, I tried telling you to put on some sunscreen.”
The burning sensation reminded me of how the Christian life is constantly under spiritual attack. First Peter 5:8 cautions us that our enemy prowls around like a roaring lion just looking for some soft, weak, unprotected area of our lives. Like the sun, he shows no respect or mercy for our lack of concern for protection or shelter.
Jesus told His disciples He was sending them out as sheep among wolves. As Christians, we are in the devil’s domain. But we sometimes forget that — and we grow comfortable, sleepy, and relaxed, not realizing our unintentional exposure to his attacks. Then afterward, we kick ourselves for not seeing the attacks coming.
What do some of his assaults look like? They come in all forms — blatant and covert. A close friend wrongly presumes something negative and spreads gossip about you, betraying years of friendship. Family members morph out of their previously loving personalities at the reading of a parent’s will. A coworker’s false accusation ruins your reputation, possibly even crashing your career. A friend invites you to movie night, yet the movie is definitely not God-honoring. In the wake of each unprotected experience, we blaze in the aftermath wondering how we could have been so stupid as to not have seen them coming.
But thanks to our loving and protective God who provides us shelter from all attacks. Consider Psalm 91 as your spiritual sunscreen with an SPF 91 rating. It assures us we can rest in His shadow and trust the protection He offers. As long as we stay vigilant, close to Him, and lather ourselves in His protective armor, the enemy’s attacks cannot damage us.
So, let’s have no blazing, burning, throbbing red areas! Lather up, cover up, and rest in His protective shadow. Ask Him to toughen up the soft, weak areas of your life. Be always on guard for attacks — they will come. You are in your enemy’s domain.
As sure as the sun’s rays are consistent and unforgiving, your enemy’s intention is to inflict his harm. But just as the sun goes down, one day the enemy will be defeated for all eternity.
Then we will bask in the soft glow of God’s brightness forever.
And His rays never burn.