“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” Psalm 18:2
安全第一, meaning “Safety First,” is a sign commonly posted near construction sites and other locations where accidents could possibly occur. To make safety a priority in these areas, a small army of traffic directors are regularly employed throughout Japan to help drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians safely navigate around potential hazards. Since Japan is also a land frequented by natural disasters, emergency drills are routinely conducted to guide people in their response in the event of an earthquake, tsunami, typhoon, landslide or volcanic eruption. Evacuation routes and emergency shelters are clearly identified in every city and roles are assigned to minimize the loss of life when there is an emergency. To increase public awareness of such matters, September 1 is designated as Japan’s Disaster Prevention Day (防災の日). On that day, emergency drills are practiced across the country in memory of the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, when over 100,000 residents in the Greater Tokyo area perished.
Despite this propensity towards natural disasters, Japan is surprisingly acknowledged to be one of the safest countries in the world, largely due to its diligent efforts to promote safety. Currently, only New Zealand and Iceland rank higher as “safe” destinations for tourists. This focus on safety is to be commended, particularly for those living in Japan, but the pursuit of safety to the exclusion of other worthy goals can possibly invite dangers of a different sort. For example, Japan also has a reputation as being a risk averse society, where any danger or possible unwanted results are avoided at all costs. While such an approach to life is certainly understandable, it can foster an unhealthy imbalance and lead to consequences that are equally unsatisfactory.
As Christians, we are called to live somewhere in the middle as we flesh out life on a daily basis. Unfortunately, there are no guaranteed outcomes when it comes to such matters as raising children, standing against the tide of a self-centered culture or sharing one’s faith in an ungodly world. Our natural inclination is to seek safety and security, but God has not promised such things to us in this life. Instead, we are called to walk by faith in a world fraught with dangers and uncontrollable results. While we must take reasonable measures to protect ourselves from undue harm, our safety, reputations, families and jobs are ultimately in God’s hands. He is our Rock, our Fortress, our Refuge and our Shield. We would be unwise to place our trust in anything else.