Back in days of the Cold War, “fallout shelter” became a familiar term as people grew increasingly aware of a threat of nuclear war. It wasn’t altogether uncommon for some serious preppers to build an underground bunker similar to the tornado shelters of the Heartland. I can remember, as a child, that I didn’t fully comprehend what a fallout shelter actually was; but I knew that it was protection from something ominous. The symbol on the outside of our county courthouse and other public buildings was an unsettling yet comforting reminder that if some bad thing were to happen, there was perhaps a place to run and hide.
Last night as I was brushing my teeth, I stared at the Psalm 91 print on my bathroom wall and in my mind, I recalled the fallout shelter symbols that were so commonly seen in my childhood. Although the most popular translation of Psalm 91 refers to the “secret place” of the Most High where a believer can dwell perpetually in our relationship with God, I pondered the aspect of that place of safety where the righteous might congregate when peril grips the land. We don’t really grasp what that means because in general, we haven’t felt unsafe out there rubbing shoulders with the world. We haven’t truly sold out to the idea that we’re not supposed to be absorbed into this culture; because though it shocks us from time to time, it holds the same kind of seduction that Sodom and Gomorrah held for Lot and his wife and daughters. The danger is perhaps a little exciting. We’re not genuinely repulsed, as well we should be, by the effects of sin on this world.
I’ve never had to run to a fallout shelter, nor hunker down in a reinforced space during a bad storm, and I hope I never will. Recurring nightmares of floods, wars, tornados, and disasters where I couldn’t find my family were more than enough drama without the real thing coming to pass. Yet, as I think of my most terrifying and vivid dreams, I can put that Psalm 91 shelter into perspective. Yes, it is plausible that something terrible could happen where we might have to be (if not outright hidden from an attacker who seeks to abduct or kill us) somewhere safe and secure from danger. Those of us who’ve lived in safety all our lives can’t really fathom a warning blast and having mere minutes to escape imminent danger. We don’t even have disaster drills in most locations because we’ve never had to have a rapid response plan. Yet the Psalmist, a man not unfamiliar with war, animal attacks, and danger, penned such a wonderful illustration when he wrote:
You who live in the shelter of ‘Elyon,
who spend your nights in the shadow of Shaddai,
who say to Adonai, “My refuge! My fortress!
My God, in whom I trust!” —
he will rescue you from the trap of the hunter
and from the plague of calamities;
he will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his truth is a shield and protection.
You will not fear the terrors of night
or the arrow that flies by day,
or the plague that roams in the dark,
or the scourge that wreaks havoc at noon.
A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand;
but it won’t come near you.
Only keep your eyes open,
and you will see how the wicked are punished.
For you have made Adonai, the Most High,
who is my refuge, your dwelling-place.
No disaster will happen to you,
no calamity will come near your tent;
for he will order his angels to care for you
and guard you wherever you go.
They will carry you in their hands,
so that you won’t trip on a stone.
You will tread down lions and snakes,
young lions and serpents you will trample underfoot.
Because he loves me, I will rescue him;
because he knows my name, I will protect him.
He will call on me, and I will answer him.
I will be with him when he is in trouble.
I will extricate him and bring him honor.
I will satisfy him with long life
and show him my salvation.” (Psalm 91, Complete Jewish Translation)
David frequently used verbage that described God’s protective nature, referring to Him in such phrases as “strong tower,” “shelter,” “secret place,” “refuge,” and others. We gloss over these phrases because few of us have ever had to cry out to God from a foxhole with the sound of exploding artillery all around us, or from a sinking ship being inundated with dark water. Our idea of trouble is Him getting us through a rough day at the office, or perhaps help during a financial crisis when we’ve had more month than money. David, Isaiah, and others knew danger when they penned words about Him hiding us in a safe place until calamities be past. I can only imagine the terrifying closeness of death that people feel when a tornado rattles vehemently over the locked doors of the underground shelter, and how glad they must be that they knew in time to run to safety. I feel that in these upcoming days, we will probably get a clearer revelation about what it’s like to be in a protected place while the sounds of disaster shake everything that can be shaken.
We need once in a while to be reawakened, re-sensitized to the fact that we are in the last days. We are about to see hard, sad, terrifying phenomena as the clash between righteousness and unrighteousness creates rumblings in the earth. Whether it would mean literal physical danger from war, or natural disasters, or famine and pestilence, or the intense battle for the souls of humankind, this earth is no longer a neutral ground in good versus evil. We need an established place of refuge in our God–familiar because we have been in His presence already–and know where to run and bring others when the worst day of our lives happens. And we will all have that worst day of our lives. Is He Lord of your life? Are you ready in the event that all hell breaks loose? Is the secret place ready to run to, or have you instead turned it into a junk room where there’s no way you could access it at a moment’s notice?
The interesting thing about museum depictions of the Cold War fallout shelters is that they weren’t just big empty rooms with walls meant to block the direct effects of radiation poisoning. They were ideally equipped with necessities for survival in the event that one might have to remain hidden for a time. Food, water, heat and light sources, etc., were kept stored in these bunkers for use by the hidden ones. I like to think of God’s provision in His Psalm 91 shelter as that way, too: if ever we have to take refuge from terrible life circumstances, He isn’t prepared just to shield us momentarily, but also to sustain us as long as it is necessary. I’ll be honest, I don’t want to think about being in survival mode; I like peace and I like an easy life. I’m glad, however, that my Father sees farther down the road than I do and is leading me to focus on something greater than the lull of my immediate comfort.
We don’t know, as these last days’ cataclysmic events unfold, what our previously free-and-easy lives might encounter. Food and supply shortages, infringements upon our civil liberties and religious freedoms, even invasion of a foreign enemy could change life as we know it. Covid-19 could just be the first of who knows how many more pandemic pestilences that invade the nations. Ungodly cultural shifts etch away at both our children’s and our own sense of right and wrong. We feel the pressure to conform even though we know we must be instead transformed by the renewing of our minds (just so we can continue to discern what’s good and acceptable to God!). If we have been lax in nurturing our relationship with the Father, now it is high time to shake off the complacency and begin familiarizing ourselves with His place of safety. We are going to need it even if we don’t fully comprehend what dangers lie ahead.
The good news is, He’s already got a special fallout shelter ready for those who will make Him Lord of their lives. God’s will is not for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance…which simply means, to do a “180” of heart and mind! When our hearts and minds change, our lives and actions will follow. You don’t have to be left defenseless from the attack of the enemy, because our Lord has already made a way. If the appeal of a cozy secret hideaway where you and God can meet in the cool of the day doesn’t draw you to the place David described in Psalm 91, then consider the non-optional fallout shelter of Psalm 91: for it’s not a matter of IF, but WHEN you’re going to need to be shielded from calamity as sin and iniquity continue to open the floodgates of demonic attack. You’ll not survive the storm about to engulf humanity if you don’t have a relationship with God.
Father, I pray that all of us will discern the times in which we are living, and that none will remain out from under Your protection. Convict hearts, O Holy Spirit, that we who are fickle might run without delay through the door Christ opened for us by His life’s sacrifice. We accept the risen Savior today and we ask You to not only save us, but to keep us, body, soul, and spirit. Teach us to cherish the place You have carved out for our preservation. Teach us to value holy living as well as listening for Your guidance. You will reveal pathways for our good and not for our destruction, through Your Word and through Your messengers. May the lives we live post directions to YOUR fallout shelter so that we might preserve many. In Yeshua’s name we pray, Amen.