Are you a runner or a fighter? Think back to the last time you were startled: Did you clench your fists or start to run in place? Did you yell or fall to the floor? Did you throw whatever was within reach or take a few steps back? Both? Some of the most viewed videos on the internet feature the uninhibited responses to loud sounds, sudden movements, or unexpected changes in the environment. While these involuntary responses can bring a good laugh, they are also essential to survival.
I love how our bodies are designed to seek refuge when confronted with danger. The two most instinctive strategies to defend against danger are often referred to as fight or flight. These instinctive responses are not strategies that have to be taught, but they are continually shaped by the environment as a child develops. Every sight, sound, and smell gets programmed in the brain with an associated emotion and experience. This is why the smell of certain foods can take us right back to Grandma’s house or fresh cut grass can remind us of the simpler days in the country.
This is also why other sights, smells, and sounds can make one bring to mind much more tragic memories and events. As the brain processes each sensation that comes with every moment, it is actively assessing safety. When one of the senses triggers an alarm, the brain can act quickly to send a signal throughout the body to either fight or run. This signal is accompanied by brain chemicals that equip the body with the adrenaline needed for the fight or the flight out of the situation.
How incredible that a human brain can be equipped with such a security system! Like any security system, however, there are false alarms. While some false alarms may be enjoyable to laugh at, others cause significant distress. The more adversity a person has experienced in their life, the harder it becomes to determine the false alarms from the immediate threats.
This is one of the many reasons why the role of the church is so important to a world that has experienced brokenness. Safe people and safe relationships provide the best healing for these adverse reactions. The most important role of the church is to point hurting people to a trustworthy God. As with many places in the Psalms, refuge can be found in the words of Psalm 119:114: “You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word” (ESV).
Is your church a refuge for people who are hurting? In their distress, are families able to turn to your church for support? The ministries of Arkansas Baptist Children’s Homes & Family Ministries (ABCH) can equip your church with more resources to point people who have experienced adversity to a trustworthy God. Would you pray about expanding your church’s reach into your community through a partnership with Living Well Counseling, Connected Foster Care and Adoptions, or Desired Haven Family Care? Each of these ministries is designed to support your church’s mission to extend the hope of the Gospel to the defenseless children and families around you.
Are you in distress right now? If you wish you could just run away, run to God; if you feel the need to fight, know that God can fight the battle for you. Would you give up your running shoes for a hiding place and your sword for an unfailing shield? God is your trustworthy protector in every season of distress. Do you need a counselor or advocate to walk alongside you? Discover more about the ministries of ABCH and reach out to our team at arkansasfamilies.org.