When my children were small, we lived in Colorado. My office was only about one mile from our house and one evening, my wife and children came to visit. I needed to finish some things, so two of the children waited to walk home with me.
It was dark by the time we set out. Streetlights illuminated part of the way, but there were no lights on the final stretch of road to our house. When we walked out of the glow of the last streetlight, we realized just how dark it was. We couldn’t see our hands in front of our faces.
We had only traveled a short distance when I sensed danger! What could possibly be causing this sudden fear? My mind raced through the whole scenario of where we were and if there was anything dangerous.
Suddenly a thought went through my mind that sent shivers down my back. There could be a lion out here watching you. Immediately I pictured a large, male African lion with a big mouth and a bad attitude. There aren’t any African lions out here, I reasoned, this is Colorado. Then another thought flashed through my mind: No, not an African lion… but it could be a mountain lion.
Instantly I had one great desire… to draw my children close and be in the safety of our home. I quickly took them by the hand and said, “Let’s see how fast we can go home.” Another thought flashed into my mind, SING… loud! We started to sing. The kids were having a great time, but all the way I was praying that God would protect us and see us safely home.
It was so dark, we could barely make out the porch light Gail turned on for us. The kids wanted to let go of my hand and run for home, but I told them we would all stay together. It wasn’t until I shut the door behind us that the feeling of danger subsided, and I felt a measure of safety.
As I looked out the window into the darkness, I wondered what was out there. Whatever it was, it was evil. The kids ran to tell the rest of the family what a great adventure they had coming home. That night as we knelt in prayer, closing family worship, I thanked the Lord for His protection over us throughout the day.
Later, I reviewed the events of the evening. Why did I suddenly sense danger? I wasn’t afraid of the dark. I had walked home many times down that same road. I drifted off to sleep with prayers of gratitude for God’s protection. Truly the angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them.1
The next morning I found out why my senses had been on alert. Within an hour from the time we reached home, my neighbor let their little dog outside. The dog suddenly began barking and ran as fast as it could for the porch. Out of the darkness, a mountain lion pounced on the dog and, with one jump, both disappeared into the night.
As I thought about how the Lord had warned me of the danger and how much He loved and cared for us, my heart overflowed with love and thankfulness to Him for my family’s safety that evening. When we called the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), we were told that lions are generally on the move and that particular one was probably miles away by now.
The neighbor who lost his dog to the lion also had two pet sheep his family had raised. Early in the morning a day later, Joel heard a strange noise outside. When he turned on the porch light, he saw a mountain lion standing over a freshly killed sheep before it jumped over the fence and disappeared.
In the morning the DNR was called again and this time they were very concerned. They said there was probably something wrong with this mountain lion because he was targeting domestic animals. More than likely the lion would come back to claim the kill. When he did the DNR would be ready. They brought a large steel cage and placed the dead sheep inside. The cage was equipped with a trigger device that would slam the door shut on the lion if he revisited. Everyone was warned to guard their children, take extra precautions, and be inside after dark.
Throughout the day the question on everyone’s mind was, “Has the lion been captured yet?” After supper that day I needed to run an errand in town and all my family wanted to go with me. It took a little longer than expected and it was dark by the time we headed for home. We all had forgotten about the lion...until we turned down our driveway. “What about the lion?” the kids asked in unison. I decided not to take any chances and drove the car right next to the front door. Then I got out, ran to the house, opened the door, and everyone ran in. It’s surprising the precautions you are willing to take when you know your family’s safety is in jeopardy.
That night at family worship all of us prayed in earnest the lion would be captured. Early in the morning, while it was still dark, Joel called and told me the lion was trapped in the cage. “Praise the Lord!” I shouted in relief. Then I asked about the size of the lion. He didn’t know because he was afraid to go outside. The lion had rattled the cage all through the night screaming and growling incessantly.
I quickly dressed and headed for my neighbor’s back yard. Joel met me as I came around his garage. “Jim, are you sure it’s safe to go back there?” his voice reflected fear. “Of course, it’s safe.” I quickly made my way over to the cage, curious to see just what this mountain lion looked like. As I approached, something caused me to question my own reasoning. Was I in danger? Should I be this close to the cage? Yes, I’m safe... if the lion could have gotten free it already would have. I dismissed my apprehension and leaned over with my hands on my knees straining to see the lion.
It was still dark, and even with my nose only inches from the cage it was difficult to make out the forms. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I could make out the dead sheep. But where was the lion? I searched everywhere, but couldn’t find it. Suddenly my eyes connected with two eyes that seemed to glow in the dark. They had been hiding behind the dead sheep. They seemed to radiate the message, “I will kill you if I can!” Instantly I realized I was foolish to be so close to this killer. Before my body could respond to the emergency signal from my brain, the lion sprang and hit the cage right in front of me... and I tripped backward, landing hard!
One of the devil’s most successful methods when God warns us of danger is to tempt us to think that, if we really are in danger, we can react fast enough to escape. But as we linger, suddenly without warning…he springs the trap. Perhaps it comes through the media with an inappropriate picture, or a tune you can’t erase from your memory. It could be any number of tailor-made traps directed to your specific weakness.
The Bible says, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”2 In light of this fact, we can understand Jesus’ warning to “watch and pray that we enter not into temptation,”3 emphasizing the spiritual danger we are in.
As I cautiously picked myself up, I could hear my children’s excited voices as they came up behind me. But now I better understood the danger. I drew them close to me explaining what just happened and that we needed stay back.
This experience helped me better appreciate Jesus’ admonition when He says, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”4
God’s promise is that if we submit ourselves to Him, if we put forth the effort to resist the devil, God will cause him to flee from us.5 God wants to draw us close to Him to keep us from falling into the devil’s traps, and if we let Him, He’ll be our eyes in the dark.
1 Psalms 34:7
3 Matthew 26:41
5 James 4:7