How Can You Feel Safe in an Unsafe World?


Recently two things happened that triggered my nervous system into feeling unsafe. One was on the communal level, the other more personal.

Here’s what God did for me. Maybe it will help you feel a little more safe too.

On the communal level, I heard the news that the FBI issued a public safety warning for the holidays. Nothing specific, just that that FBI Director Christopher Wray sees “blinking red [warning] lights everywhere.” He says not to panic, but to be vigilant.

Caution text overlay

Photo by Goh Rhy Yan

Great. Hyper-vigilance is something I’m working on healing! In trying to heal trauma from my childhood (and beyond), I’ve worked hard on feeling safe. How can one feel safe in a world where the Director of the FBI is saying that “I’ve never seen a time when so many of the threats are all elevated, all at exactly the same time”?

To top it off, I received a letter from my state representative about safety concerns. We’ve never gotten a letter like that before. It makes you wonder what “they” (the FBI, the government officials) know that we don’t.

On a personal level, a past toxic situation and relationship that I thought was squarely in the past suddenly crashed again into my life.

I want to tell you how being able to connect with God brought great comfort and strength and sucked the stress right out of both situations.

After I got the sudden text and phone message, I related it to my children. My son wisely said, “Ignore it until X happens. Don’t give it any mental bandwidth.”

Good advice, except that my nervous system didn’t get it.

I told a couple of close friends who were familiar with the history of my situation, and they prayed for me.

I prayed too, of course. And what I got was a vision of sorts, a meditation God gave me to dwell on.

(When I say “vision,” I mean an impression on my spirit that is somewhat visual. It’s “seeing with the eyes of my heart.” That is how I often receive messages from God.)

The first part was simply of a castle or fortress, with a moat all around it. The mote was water with fire on top of it.

landscape photo of white and brown castle

No fire here, but the castle is like in my vision, only higher up.

The next day, in my dialogue with God in my Morning Pages journal, the image was added to: I was taken up by angels into the castle (there was no way to get there otherwise, what with the water and fire). I was transported to an area of the castle where I was to stay, “while your special rooms were being prepared.” That “place” I understood would be perfectly designed for who I am.

In the meantime, however, I would have to live in more “public” places, perhaps not so perfectly designed for me, but livable. (I’ve had a lot of dreams lately about being in public places. As an Introvert and Highly Sensitive Person, I’m often wearied by a lot of ”public” obligations. This vision put those dreams and feelings in context.)

I was content to live in the more public places because I knew now they were temporary. A perfect place was being prepared for me (see John 14), and though the meantime was less than perfect, it was fine for now.

This “vision” comforts me.

white paper on white table

Photo by micheile henderson

First of all, it signals safety to my nervous system in a way that my body could receive better than just trying to put something out of my mind. (It will still live in the nervous system anyway.) What the nervous system needs is not words or reasoning, but a new “picture in the heart.” The body’s language is nonverbal. The “survival brain” runs on pictures in the heart.

That new picture of safety is what the vision is giving me. I felt safe in that castle surrounded by the moat that you could only cross via air, spiritually (i.e. the angels carrying me over). The water and fire to me signify baptism (water and the Holy Spirit), recalling a sermon I heard recently about how we can go back to the fact of our baptism to remind us that “we are sealed by the Holy Spirit and belong to God forever.”

Knowing that I had to put up with living in the public spaces because a special place was being prepared for me helped me to feel like I could cope with the obligations that sometimes can seem so onerous to me.

I don’t know if that picture speaks to you or not. You can always pray for your own picture of safety.

brown house surrounded by cliffs during daytime

Photo by Wilfried Santer

The Bible is full of images of safety. The Psalms in particular offer many images of safety (e.g. Psalm 18, where God is pictured as a rock,  a refuge).

Indeed, my vision is based on the verse that the name of the Lord is a “fortress” to which we can run and be safe (Proverbs 18:10). Only in my case, I had to be flown over the moat by an angel!

(This, by the way, is how you know if something is truly from God: It needs to square with Scripture in some way. I’ve been reading through the Bible every two years since 2004, so my “pool” is well-stocked with things God can draw from.)

God had given me another precious picture of safety in an Immanuel Prayer experience, after a tragedy that rocked my world. I did a video on that. I called it “King Jesus Faces Down Evil.” I often return to that as well.

This world as it is is not always safe. If we’ve had trauma in our lives (and most of us have, of one sort or another, as Dr. Gabor Maté points out in his newest book, The Myth of Normal: Trauma, Illness, and Healing in a Toxic Culture), then we can be prone to being easily triggered into anxiety.

If we can address that anxiety by feeding the “survival brain” new images (among other approaches), it can help us be resilient, hopeful, healthily vigilant, and resourceful, adequate to meet the challenges of world that is not always safe or healthy.

Some other verses that calm my nervous system:

  • “In this world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (Words of Jesus in John 16:33)
  • The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness have never overcome it (John 1:5).
  • “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Some of Jesus’ last recorded words, in Revelation 21:5.)
  • Zechariah’s prophecy about the baby Jesus:

       “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
        for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
        to give knowledge of salvation to his people
        in the forgiveness of their sins,
        because of the tender mercy of our God,
        whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high
        to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
        to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1: 76-79)

person holding baby's toe with yellow petaled flower in between

If you would like to grow in your ability to hear from God, I invite you to check out my Align with Your Divine Design program. In Module 2, Connect, I teach you four ways to learn how to hear the voice of God. This is the foundation of the whole program. There’s nothing like being able to experience God. In fact, Richard Rohr has said, “An experience of God is necessary for mental and emotional health.” I totally agree!

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