Clinging to God’s Promises in the Midst of Tragedy
by Corey Russell
Artists and Authors
We are all shaken by loss. God promised us His presence when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, but questions remain. Can we recover? Will our families survive? And is there an eternal purpose? As the world and church face the economic and physical threats of COVID-19, God has more than just survival in mind for His children. The following is adapted from “Psalm 91: Protection,” chapter 7 of Inheritance: Clinging to God’s Promises in the Midst of Tragedy, by Corey Russell. After the sudden death of their only son, Corey and his family faced unbearable pain and loneliness. God carried them through the following years with promises from five specific psalms. As Corey clung to these psalms, he heard the Good Shepherd invite him to believe in a God who turns the worst circumstances into a profound and eternal inheritance.
Psalm 2 paints a vivid scene of the warfare, chaos, and confusion that the enemy will wage around the deepest places of inheritance. I felt the enemy’s rage, his warfare, against my deepest inheritance: my family. It was Psalm 2 that gave me the simple yet profound response: intimacy-based intercession. I didn’t have strength to do a lot in that season, but there was one thing I could do—I could sit before the Father, hear and receive His affection, and ask for my inheritance in Him.
I set my heart to focus on who God is. I’ve found the attributes of God to be a great strength and comfort, specifically the eternity of God. When meditating on the eternity of God, I find that my afflictions in this age, no matter how intense, are light when compared to eternity. Meditating on the eternity of God lifts me above the temporal storms and gives me an eternal perspective. Over the past few years, in the wake of my son’s death, this truth has sustained and strengthened my heart massively.
In Psalm 90:2, Moses writes, “From everlasting to everlasting, You are God.” He has no beginning and He has no end; He is the everlasting “I AM.” I began to meditate on passages like this one and prayer-read through the following Psalms. Seemingly by accident, as I began to read and pray through Psalm 91, God began to arrest my heart, and this psalm that I thought I was very familiar with gripped me in a way that it had never had before. I knew that God was throwing another lifeline to my family and me, to sustain and strengthen us for the next season. Honestly, the summer and fall would prove to be the most difficult time that we would walk through, but at the point where the enemy would try his hardest to separate, destroy, and kill our family, God emphasized Psalm 91. He gave us a hiding place, and from there we could navigate through the storm.
As the Holy Spirit emphasized Psalm 91, four truths became very evident. These were revolutionary to me.
- God is committed to providing protection, provision, and immunity.
- The psalm’s promises are conditional, given to the ones who make Him their dwelling place versus their “crisis ATM.”
- I must memorize this psalm and declare it to God, over my heart, and against the devil.
- The backdrop of the psalm is intense: pestilence and death.
I was absolutely blown away by what God said He would do for the people who make Him their dwelling place and who set their love upon Him. I began to see the conditions of Psalm 91 as a call to make Him my dwelling place. The psalmist declared that God would deliver that person, cover that person both at night and in the day. He would give His angels charge over them to carry them and protect them. At the end of Psalm 91 in verses 14–16, God steps in and makes a seven-fold commitment to the person who has “set his love upon Me” (v. 14).
- He will deliver them.
- He will set them on high (the place of revelation).
- He will answer their prayers.
- He will be with them in trouble.
- He will honor them.
- He will satisfy them with long life.
- He will show them His salvation.
The Lord was very clear with me about memorizing this passage and making it the priority of my prayer life for the next couple of months. He told me to declare it back to Him over my life and family, and against the devil.
Shortly after God drew me into this psalm, He gave me a real-life prophetic picture of its reality. In Kansas City, we are used to tornadoes and the threat of tornadoes coming through our city. One evening that summer, our whole family was outside playing and hanging out when storm clouds began to gather, which is, honestly, one of the most fascinating, beautiful, and terrifying things to see. They move so fast. To see the dark clouds meet the bright clouds, to see lighting strikes, and then to see funnels drop down some twenty to thirty miles away—it’s absolutely beautiful. Our family was literally caught up in the scene transpiring before our eyes when all of a sudden, the most obnoxious sound began. It started off in the background and continued. I was subconsciously tolerating it until it stopped, but after about a minute, I began to realize that it wasn’t going to. It was then that an earth-shattering revelation hit me: this is a siren warning us that a tornado is getting close, and we need to seek shelter as soon as possible. (You would have thought that the fact that no one else was outside would have been enough, but it wasn’t.) We quickly transitioned to the basement, and though the tornado went just north of us, the Lord began to speak to me regarding Psalm 91.
I became deeply aware in that moment of the reality of storms that are breaking into this nation and this generation, and more specifically, the storm that had and was continuing to come through our family. I also became deeply connected with the fact that sirens are going off as clear indicators of this storm. We are seeing national storms, sexual storms, theological storms, and family storms gathering; the things coming out of our courtrooms, bedrooms, and churches are clear indicators of the danger—alarms are going off.
The family storm was one that we were feeling in a very personal way. The death of Nash had released an earthquake in our family, exposing every fault line. In seasons like this, unresolved issues that were just annoyances become exacerbated to tens on the Richter scale. They say that the percentage of marriages to not survive the death of a child is astronomical, and I honestly understand that. I have deep compassion for marriages that don’t make it through these seasons. When these kinds of devastating events hit your life, everyone goes into survival mode, doing all they know to just stay alive. For me, it became a messianic mission of carrying my family through this dark night. For my wife, it was doing her best to carry on through her day but just wanting to go to sleep once evening came. For my oldest daughter, it was looking to friends to fill that void, and for my middle daughter, it was taking on the false burden of being the best sister-mom to our youngest daughter.
It’s human nature to look to something or someone as a place of security, but God brings all of the false securities to the surface so that He can draw us to the only One who can shelter us, protect us, and provide for us in these storms. He alone is our dwelling place. I knew that God would carry us through the storm despite all of our running, escaping, and fear-motivated tendencies, and would reveal His glory in us and through all of this.
I had wrestled for years over the fact that Jesus compared the days preceding His return to the days of Noah. My first prayer CD, done in 2004, was titled Days of Noah. I was invited to speak at a conference in Montana, and the name of the conference was Days of Noah. On the flight out there, I began to tell the Lord how unfair it was that Noah preached for one-hundred-twenty years and no one got saved but his family, and immediately the Holy Spirit spoke back to me: “But his family got saved. And in the last days, I’m going to raise up arks of safety, called families, who will go through the worst of storms and come out on the other side and make fresh covenant with Me.” His words had always stayed with me, and now I felt I truly understood them, because I had lived them. I believe God will take many families through storms like ours and bring them through to the other side. These families will be a witness to the power of God to preserve and deliver His people through the darkest of nights.
Prophecies of the last days are filled with predictions of the breakdown of the marriage and family units. Paul saw there would come a day that marriage would be outlawed (1 Tim. 4:3). What do you think would cause this to come about? Could it be the fact that the institution doesn’t mean anything anymore, due to the prevalence of divorce (in the church and outside of it), homosexual marriage, “open marriages,” and the like?
In Second Timothy 3, Paul wrote in the middle of a long list of last-day trends that people would be “disobedient to parents” (v. 2). We cannot fully grasp the significance of the breakdown of the family unit that will come when adults despise the generation that raised them and children won’t even listen to their parents anymore, partly because their words don’t mean anything, due to the hypocrisy of their own lives.
While it’s clear that marriage and family are under an all-time assault, the Lord has given us a powerful prophetic promise that this will not be the only thing going on with families in the last days.
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.
Before the Lord returns, He is going to release a prophetic spirit that will manifest in homes and in the midst of families. I’m convinced that the greatest anointing is one that turns a heart, and God will release this anointing before He returns. The days are coming when Christian fathers will no longer sacrifice their children on the altar of ministry, money, or themselves, but will sow themselves into their natural and spiritual children to see the heart of a generation turn back to them. By God’s power, marriages and families will stay together in the wake of tragedies and will become “arks of safety” for the final generation. Because these family units will be so essential, I’m not surprised the enemy has unleashed an all-out war on them. I know he unleashed it on us.
This is why I believe Psalm 91 is so important for us in this hour. It gives us a clear prescription for safety: make Him your dwelling place. More than just a crisis ATM, who we run to in times of emergency, we must begin to make Him our primary source of joy, entertainment, comfort, and peace. The psalmist makes it clear that there is a place of immunity, or protection and provision, and it’s in Him.
In one sense, we are “in Him,” and He is “in us,” but there is a big difference between having access to something or someone and actually accessing it or them. Many believers are content with the fact that they said a prayer at an altar inviting Jesus into their hearts, and are living their lives investing their time, money, and energy into themselves, disconnected from Him. The call to make Him your dwelling place includes living an intentional life of abiding in Him, fellowshipping with the indwelling Spirit, obeying His small and large promptings, quickly running from anything or anyone who disturbs your conscience, and seeking to live in unity and intimacy with Him.
I believe that an active engagement with the indwelling Spirit and with others who are seeking to do the same is one of the greatest ways to survive these current storms, as well as navigate through the coming ones.
I want to tell you that we didn’t immediately see the fruit of this abiding. There were many painful and dark nights in this time. Things actually got more painful in the summer and fall, yet it was in this season that walls each of us had built began to crack, and it was in this season that the slow, painful journey toward healing really began. After the first two years of basically surviving, God had begun the restoration. Looking back at when things were at an all-time painful place, we see that our weak reaching to abide in Him actually hid us, carried us, and strengthened us. The “fruit” of our abiding in Him is the fact that we are here, that we didn’t quit, and that we love each other and are filled with hope for a great future.
Friend, I don’t know what your story is or has been, but I want to call you to deeply abiding in Him, drawing on Him, and living in Him. As you seek to do this, He promises you that He will deliver, protect, and carry you through the darkest of nights.
We invite you to continue the journey with Corey Russell through the five psalms God used to comfort and give vision in the midst of tragedy:
- Psalm 132: The Promise
- Psalm 1–2: Inheritance
- Psalm 91: Protection
- Psalm 18: Deliverance
- Psalm 23: Shepherd
To read Corey Russell’s full story, and exposition of all five psalms, we recommend his book Inheritance: Clinging to God’s Promises in the Midst of Tragedy. See how God heals His people, makes them into shepherds after His own heart, and calls them to believe in the One who turns the worst circumstances into a profound and eternal inheritance. Available now from Forerunner Bookstore >>
- Senior Leader, IHOPKC
- Instructor, IHOPU
Corey Russell served on the leadership team of the International House of Prayer for more than 15 years and as an instructor at International House of Prayer University. With a mission to disciple and train young preachers and leaders, Corey travels nationally and internationally preaching on the knowledge of God, intercession, and the forerunner ministry. He has authored books such as Prayer: Why Our Words to God Matter and The Glory Within: The Interior Life and the Power of Speaking in Tongues. Corey is married to Dana, and they have three daughters, Trinity, Mya, and Hadassah.