Right at the commencement of the conflict, when explosions began raining down on the capital Kyiv, one of the BBC’s correspondents wrote, “there is no safe place in Ukraine any more”, as she and her son were forced to flee to the countryside. Many of the other stories would back up her statement: like the birth of baby Mia in a Metro station as her terrified 23-year-old mother could find no safe place when labour unexpectedly began; or the 6-year-old girl in unicorn pyjamas, whose own bed proved no safe place from shelling. Those of us watching in the West are forced to admit how privileged most of us are in never having experienced what it is to have no safe place anymore.
Thank God there is one who can understand what it is like to live and die in a hostile environment – our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He lived his whole life as a Jew, in a country under occupation from the brutal Roman Empire, even being put to death by their barbaric method of crucifixion after His own people had rejected Him. Twice in the Gospels we read of there being “no place” for Him.
“She gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7 ESV).
Forced to travel for a census decreed on the whim of an emperor, Jesus’ mother found herself in a place she did not expect at the end of her pregnancy. Christmas cards show a cosy stable scene, but the reality was more likely a rough feeding trough in a corner of a field outside the city of Bethlehem. Far from the ideal place to lay a fragile newborn, yet such was His birth.
“Someone said to Jesus, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ But Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay His head’” (Luke 9:57,58 NLT).
His family largely disdained Him and when He began His true work – to tell others of God His Father – very few dared to offer Him a resting place given how His words and actions irked the influential Jewish leaders. Before their betrayal of Him into the hands of their enemies the Romans, they continually hounded Him with questions, accusations and threats, giving Him no peace, yet such was His life.
Given His, often troubled, circumstances it is no surprise we read of Him several times praying in desert places – His Father must have been such a source of solace and hope for Him. In a similar way He is able to sustain others in similar situations, as it says in the Psalms:
“The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a place of safety in times of trouble” (Psalm 9:9 GNT).
Not only can He understand the trouble and oppression of the people of Ukraine, but He can deal with the turmoil of sin that we all suffer from, thanks to His sacrificial death and victorious resurrection. For those of us who have already trusted Him and are not currently in a warzone – we should give thanks daily for our own safety and that of our children; we should pray for a safe place for those devastated by this war; we should give whatever help we can – as many are doing. But above all, we should pray that those surrounded by very real dangers will find Christ, and in Him a safe place for their souls.
Photo credit: Taine Noble