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A Bulwark Never Failing

Updated: Jun 15, 2022

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing…

The first line from this well-known hymn has been stuck in my mind for the past two weeks now. I have no recollection of even hearing it recently, and I certainly don’t know any of the other words to the song by heart. It has been both encouraging and utterly annoying as I find myself just humming and singing this first line over and over and over again.

I finally looked it up on YouTube, hoping to have the other lines of the song equally ingrained, but although I have a love for hymns, the archaic language of this one has not lent itself to memorization. So I’m stuck with these descriptors of our Heavenly Father….mighty, fortress, bulwark (what is that anyways?) and never failing. There are definitely worse things to have in your mind, but I have been dubious that these words actually apply to my own life.

Oh, but how clever our God is. Let me back up a bit to explain.

Earlier in this whole “really bad cold season” (the expression we use to explain to our children why they can’t play at McDonalds), I was struggling with my recurring desire to have God be my protector. Have you ever desired this? I have been in seasons where I felt I needed protection and there was none, at least not according to my limited human understanding. This disappointment resurfaces occasionally, and I have been reflecting recently on the tension within us between who we want God to be and who He actually is. To help myself with this tension, I have been reciting 2 Corinthians 10:5 for years:

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

This verse is powerful (as is all Scripture), and I have definitely experienced its power in my own life numerous times. I know God loves me, so to see Him as choosing not to protect me has felt like an argument that needed demolishing. But this verse has also felt like it puts a lot of the “doing” on myself. Demolishing arguments is hard, strenuous work, and taking every thought captive to be obedient to Christ has seemed unattainable. I have a lot of thoughts.

But still, I’ve been repeating this verse, and still all my brain says back is, “a mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing.” I find out something overwhelming about work? A mighty fortress is our God… My kids whine about not wanting macaroni and cheese for dinner? A mighty fortress is our God… You get the picture.

That brings us up to date to this morning and God’s wise ways. Mark built a fort for the boys that they have been enjoying immensely (pictured above). When I asked him to remind me to write the article for the FYI, he (not knowing my mind has had a hymn on repeat) pointed at the fort and said, “You should just write about how our God is a fortress.” Of course I should.

I finally decided, after weeks of singing about bulwarks, to look up what they are. I was truly delighted and comforted by what I found. After years of wondering if God protects us or not, the definition of bulwark was concise and clear: “a defensive wall.” When we are in the mighty fortress of our God, we cannot be touched. We are tested, saddened, grieved, disappointed. But behind the unfailing wall, the enemy cannot touch us.

Earlier, I was the monster and the boys were the innocents hiding in the fort. I groaned and made scary noises outside the fort, and they giggled and shrieked. However, as soon as I even reached a finger into the fort, Tommy immediately broke character and said, “No, you can’t do that. When we’re inside here you can’t even touch us.” How true that is.

I pray these words bring encouragement to you. Let us spur each other on as a loving family. And may we have supernatural grace and kindness for those who do not know the sweetness of His mighty fortress.

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