Of course, you know the problem with hedgehogs, right?1
Sometimes, when a Christian is praying, he or she will ask for a “hedge of protection” to be placed around someone else. That really doesn’t have anything to do with little spiky animals. Instead, it is kind of a fancy way of asking for God to shield those we care about from harm – whether physical or spiritual. However, while this exact phrase is not required when we ask God to protect others, the metaphor provides a nice mental image. I understand that most hedges are nice leafy, green bushes – strong enough to prevent them from being casually passed through. However, when I think of this prayer, I can also imagine hedges that are denser or a lot more prickly, maybe with big, spiky thorns that keep out intruders. (My parents used to have a row of bushes in front of our house. As kids, we would cut through them, because it was shorter than going around; however, we could certainly end up with scratches from those bushes – another reason we should have been following our parent’s instructions.)
If you don’t pray for the protection of others, I encourage you to start. My family is typically on the top of my list for prayers like this (although I imagine God’s protection as more of a giant shield, rather than a hedge). In addition, missionaries, persecuted believers, those in Christian leadership, and – if we think about it – all of us can benefit from His help.
Still, we shouldn’t necessarily expect that we’re always going to be fortified and excluded from all problems on this fallen world. In the first chapter of the book of Job, Satan accuses God of buying Job’s loyalty with blessings and protection.
You have always put a wall of protection around him and his home and his property. You have made him prosper in everything he does. Look how rich he is!
Job 1:10 NLT
And, despite Job’s righteousness, there was a purpose why both his possessions and good health were taken away. Living a “good” life, and even doing the will of God, does not exempt anyone from rough times. Don’t believe me? Research the lives of Joseph, Paul, and even Jesus. Read about missionaries and martyrs who gave up all they had because they loved Jesus and wanted more people to enjoy the blessings of following Him.
The hedge is good, but it was never intended to be impermeable. So, even as we ask for God’s protection (which I think we should continue to do), how do we “hog the hedge”?
- Do we get snippy, frustrated, and accusatory with God when we experience trials? It’s OK to cry out to God and ask Him hard questions, but our first step should probably not be to accuse Him of making a mistake just because our path in life has some potholes. “Why?” is different from “I’m right and You’re wrong!”
- Do we hide out in “safe” places, never leaving our circle of church friends to share the good news about Jesus with others? Yes, encouraging other Christians and getting re-charged by spending time with them is a great thing to do. It just shouldn’t consume all of our schedule. There are many others who still need Jesus, and need us to enter into the world in order to offer them a chance to be rescued.
- Do we abandon or exclude those who have really serious struggles? I understand the challenge of knowing what to say to someone who has lost a loved one. I appreciate that it’s difficult to try and talk with someone in a hospital bed or a wheelchair who can’t carry on a conversation with you. Still, we should not avoid things just because they are uncomfortable, nor should we follow the bad logic of the disciples as recorded in John 9:1-3.
- Do we forget that sometimes, bad things that we experience are indeed God’s discipline for our wrong choices? Loving discipline is about getting a wayward child back on track, with the intention of making him or her better in the future. It is not about blasting a loved one with bad things arbitrarily. Read Isaiah 5:1-6 for a good illustration of this concept.
So, keep praying for God to protect both yourself and others. But, when His plan (which is greater than you and I can see from our human vantage points) results in bad things getting through the hedge, take on the pain of life face-to-face, and don’t hog the hedge!