“Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by” (Psalm 57:1, ESV).
The sun filtered stunningly through the rapidly defoliating oak, maple and birch trees; radiant beams of light illuminating the path before me as if God Himself was soon to appear. A brisk steady breeze bullied its way into every open space in the forest, causing the leaves, ablaze with color, to dance nimbly on both the trees and the forest floor. But off to the southwest dark, swirling clouds growled angrily at me like a guard dog insisting that I keep my distance. I quickened my pace. The storm was rapidly swallowing up my narrow lead as I hastily navigated the familiar network of trails.
I had hoped that I would have had more time to spend in these woods that have listened so attentively to me through the years. When the pressures of life became too much. When relationships were strained to the breaking point. When I felt as though my grip on sanity was tenuous at best. Of course, I was never really sharing with the trees, but in their home I found a safe place of refuge from the emotional storms of life. This is where I felt peace, where I could be myself without any fear of judgment. This is where I heard God’s voice most clearly.
But this time I had tarried too long. The rapidly approaching storm, now threatening to envelop me, vehemently hurled bolts of lightning as in a fit of rage. I could see the heavy rain draped beneath the clouds like a bed sheet hangs from a clothesline. Still a half mile from my SUV I began to run as I felt the first drops land on the back of my neck. As I closed the vehicle’s door the sky fell in spectacular fashion. There was nowhere to go. Even with the wipers on full I couldn’t see well enough to drive. With the car off and the driver’s seat reclined God began to speak to me about the word refuge.
Any Port in a Storm?
When life provides us with difficulties, troubles and storms, as it has a tendency to do, it’s so easy to latch on to the first “solution” that presents itself. When the car breaks down and you don’t have the money for the repair, that credit card seems like an easy way out. When the credit card bills have piled up beyond your ability to pay, that home refinance or home equity loan looks like a place of calm. Whatever the circumstance, whatever the trial, God, our Rock, our Shelter, our Refuge, is right where he has always been. Sure, when we put our trust in Him we don’t always see an immediate result, but we can rest assured that He knows what’s best. He will provide for us first with inner peace and then with the direction we need to get out of the rain.
There’s an old saying, “Any port in a storm.” The idea is that when things are bad any shelter will do. Unfortunately, this isn’t a true statement. In “tornado alley”, a portion of the United States which is particularly prone to tornadic activity, everyone understands the types of shelter that will provide them with the best protection from a tornado. A mobile home will keep the rain off of their heads, but it’s no place to be when nature’s fury strikes. The safest place to be in a tornado is an underground storm shelter.
Our propensity for searching everywhere else for relief before we look to God is a tragedy. God will not bully you into calling on Him. He will patiently wait while we exhaust all other options, and He will still be waiting for us when we come to our senses. I’ve heard it said that God is never farther from us than the length of our arm, because only we can push Him away.
Under His Wings
The Psalms have several references to our place of refuge under the shadow of God’s wings. Psalm 57:1 says, “Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by” (ESV). The image is of a mother bird protecting her babies from weather and predator. It’s difficult to miss the love in this imagery.
Psalm 91:4, “He will cover you with his pinions [a poetic way of saying wings], and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler [a buckler is a small round shield]” (ESV). Jesus even told Jerusalem that He wanted many times to gather her “children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing” (Matthew 23:37 & Luke 13:34, ESV). He wants us to rely on His protection rather than that from any other. And if the truth be told, any other source is a mobile home in a tornado.
A Strong Tower
“For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy” (Psalm 61:3, ESV). A strong tower, or stronghold, was a defensible place of safety. They did not fall easily. But with God as our refuge we have a stronghold that will never fall! “But the Lord has become my stronghold, and my God the rock of my refuge” (Psalm 94:22, ESV). He not only protects us from the storms of life, but He is our place of safety from the attacks of the enemy.
In Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King the forces of Gondor holding Osgiliath are handily beaten by an army of Orcs. The survivors race to saftey in Minas Tirith being pursued by the Orcs. I know this may mean that I’m a nerd, but the imagery is stunning. ***Disclaimer: My memory isn’t always perfect. If I’ve gotten any LOTR facts wrong, please let me know in the comments and I’ll see to it they are corrected.*** They find shelter and protection behind the walls of the great stronghold.
Another image that comes to mind is that of a child who’s had a nightmare running into the strong and safe arms of his father.
God’s got our backs.
When the storms of life necessitate that we run, we need to run into His arms.
He is our refuge.