Our Refuge, Shelter and Confidence
Be merciful and gracious to me, O God, be merciful and gracious to me, for my soul takes refuge and finds shelter and confidence in You; yes, in the shadow of Your wings will I take refuge and be confident until calamities and destructive storms are passed.—Psalm 57:1
"...in the shadow of Your wings will I take refuge..."
According to the dictionary, the word refuge means to find shelter or protection from danger; a place of safety, protection and shelter; and to receive aid, relief or escape.
There are probably few people more aware of the need for refuge than the people from the regions of Japan where the earthquake and tsunami hit. They understand what it is like to be left without shelter. But even when the storms of life destroy earthly shelters, there is a Shelter that is unshakable and unmovable that is only found in Christ Jesus.
Although I have never faced the level of devastation that the people of Japan are facing, I do understand what it is like to need refuge. Our family has been displaced by fire twice: once in 2003 due to a wildfire that swept through our city, destroying over 240 homes, and again in 2007 when an electrical fire destroyed our home. During times like these you become very aware of your need for a refuge and shelter that cannot be destroyed.
We have not been promised that calamities will not come our way, but we have been promised that when the storms come we can be confident that Jesus will be our refuge and shelter. In the fire of 2007, our family lost a great deal of possessions due to fire, water and smoke damage. The first night I felt completely overwhelmed. Our kids clothes were destroyed, our basic needs were gone and all of our precious memories had burned (wedding photos, family photos, baby books, and the precious mementos that we treasured). That night I cried out to the Lord for His help and refuge.
Over the next few days God raised up different people to be His hands and feet for us. One man, who worked for a fire restoration company, brought a truck to our home and removed all the smoke and water damaged items that had not burned; his company cleaned them all free of charge. Another person gave us the funds to pay for the security deposit on a rental home, while another raised funds from within the community of Believers. A dear friend took our kids out shopping for basic needs, and a local youth group raised funds to give each of our kids $500.
Though no one could replace the precious photos and mementos that were destroyed, the Holy Spirit reminded us that every photo was etched in our hearts and in our memories. There was amazing comfort that came as the Lord ministered to us.
Our oldest daughter literally lost everything in this fire, but the hardest thing to bear losing was the photo album that came with her when we took her in as our foster baby when she was a year old. This album contained photos of her birth family, her first foster family and the only photos that existed of her as a baby. A couple of days after the fire – as investigators were looking through the ashes to determine the source – someone spotted below piles of burnt wood and debris a red photo album. It was our daughter's album that held precious photos that she could not remember in her heart or mind...but they were contained on the pages of this album.
I don't mean to romanticize this tragedy that hit our family, because even in the midst of all the blessings there was great loss, confusion and sadness. But we saw the Lord come in the middle of calamity and be our refuge.
I am sharing this story to encourage you that you have a refuge today! He is the One who will be your shelter, your helper, your "way of escape" in the midst of whatever you are facing.
"...for my soul takes refuge and finds shelter and confidence in You..."
Throughout Scripture we find the word "shelter" used as a place of safety from storms and enemies. The enemy loves to come in stormy seasons of our lives to try to steal our perspective. He loves to taunt us with a sense of being uncovered and left without shelter. The enemy is eager to accuse God of breaking His promises and abandoning us in our times of need. It is very easy in the middle of a storm to lose our perspective and begin to doubt.
And after He had dismissed the multitudes, He went up into the hills by Himself to pray. When it was evening, He was still there alone. But the boat was by this time out on the sea, many furlongs distant from the land, beaten and tossed by the waves, for the wind was against them.
And in the fourth watch of the night [between 3:00-6:00 a.m.], Jesus came to them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified and said, "It is a ghost!" And they screamed out with fright.
But instantly He spoke to them, saying, "Take courage! I AM! Stop being afraid!"
And Peter answered Him, "Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water."
He said, "Come!" So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water, and he came toward Jesus. But when he perceived and felt the strong wind, he was frightened, and as he began to sink, he cried out, "Lord, save me [from death]!"
Instantly Jesus reached out His hand and caught and held him, saying to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat knelt and worshiped Him saying, "Truly You are the Son of God!" —Matthew 14:23-33
It is interesting to note the part in verse 30 that says: "But when he perceived...the strong wind...he began to sink." The enemy is always trying to get us to try to process our faith through our minds. Your mind will never perceive the ways of God or the faith that we are called to live by. If the enemy can get us to try to perceive God through human understanding, we will always find ourselves sinking.
I have always loved the "thought" of stepping out in faith (and have often done so), but when the time comes to put feet to my faith, almost without fail fear will come and try to get me to "perceive the strong winds of adversity." Fear will quickly usher me into trying to figure things out with my mind, which will almost always cause me to doubt. It is a vicious cycle that needs to be resisted. God wants us to keep our perception in the truth of His promises and in the unseen. Just as Peter's eyes could not see what was enabling him to walk on the water, neither can our eyes see the divine interaction that enables us to walk on our waters of faith.
When you step out in faith, you will feel the natural (seen) realities resisting you. You will feel the strong winds of adversity and natural fears begin to try to get you to protect yourself. But you need to know that Jesus is right there to help you, even in the midst of your unbelief, to grab hold of you and to take you into His refuge and shelter.
Confidence in You
"...in the shadow of Your wings will I take refuge and be confident until calamities and destructive storms are passed."
God cannot and will not lie. Each Word written in blue here is truth and you can put your confidence in it. I find that many people try to put their confidence in their desire to have God keep them from the storms of life, but throughout Scripture we see that God often arrives during the storms of life and provides refuge and shelter.
He does not promise us a "storm free" life. Who would need a shelter if there was no storm? He also does not promise us that we will not experience loss or calamity (although He is preparing a place for us where we will not experience these things). He promises to be our shelter until these things pass.
For any of you who follow my writings, you know that for the past number of years I have been in the midst of a storm, but you also know that God has been my refuge and shelter. He has kept His promise even during those times that I found myself sinking as I perceived the situation and felt the strong winds that seemingly beat against us. He never seems to tire of reaching out to grab hold of me and sustain me.
So, this is my posture:
My heart if fixed, O God, my heart is steadfast and confident! I will sing and make melody. Awake, my glory (my inner self); awake, harp and lyre! I will awake right early [I will awaken the dawn]! I will praise and give thanks to You, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to You among the nations. For Your mercy and loving-kindness are great, reaching to the heavens, and Your truth and faithfulness to the clouds. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let Your glory be over all the earth.—Psalm 57:7-11
May He be exalted!