Three Practical Ways to Take Refuge in God

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I’ve been thinking a lot these last few months about what it means practically to take refuge in God.  Refuge isn’t a term we use often personally.  On a political level we may think of refugees, and the place they go to flee the danger in their homeland as a place of refuge.  But for the Christian, the idea of God being a refuge should be very real, personal and practical.

Christians are not at home with the ways of this world.  We feel like foreigners here.  We don’t have the same desires we used to have.  We once partied like the world, were greedy like the world, sought self above all like the world, and hid from the pain and brokenness in this life in various ways.  Those ways were once our refuge.  Before Christ shone on our hearts and broke our chains we hid from the suffering of death, betrayal, loss and pain in people, temporary pleasures, mind-altering substances, sleep, money, withdrawal, food… and many other various cotton-candy hiding places.  In those days, we found that hiding in those places gave us an escape from one pain only to be bound by the chains of another.   Since Christ has come into our lives, we know that only he can truly hide us in times of trouble.  We fail many times, running back to old hiding places that can’t shelter us from the storms of this life.  But ultimately, it is Christ that we run to, because as our brother quick-fall-Peter said, who else is there to go to? Only Christ has the words of life.

But what does it look like to hide in Christ?  What does it look like to run to God as refuge?

The Psalms are full of declarations that God is the psalmist’s refuge.  The psalmist runs to God when he’s betrayed, when he’s chased, when he’s surrounded, when he’s found in sin, when he’s sick, when he’s in pain, when he’s depressed, he even runs to God for refuge when he feel like God has forgotten him.  Why?  And how?

There’s definitely more than one blog post worth writing on this subject.  Just taking the time to read through the Psalms and notice how often the writer calls on God as a refuge could be a devotional for a year.   I want to focus on one particular Psalm and think about how we as Christians take refuge in God.

Psalm 57 has a small title under it in my Bible that says, “To the choirmaster: according to Do Not Destroy. A Miktam of David, when he fled from Saul, in the cave.”

David wrote this psalm when he fled from Saul in a cave it says.  Saul was the king of Israel God had told was no longer going to be king.  He was loosing his mind and was murderously chasing David to kill him, knowing David was to be the king in his place.  Now that’s a situation to feel like one might  need to find refuge somewhere.  I’ve never had to flee physical danger, but like David, I know the feeling that my soul is “bowed down”, or “in the midst of lions.”

As I read through this Psalm I find three practical ways to run to God for refuge:

1) Call on God’s mercy
2) Remember God’s sovereignty
3) Expect God’s faithfulness

Call on God’s Mercy

“Be merciful to me O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge. In the shadow of your wings I take refuge ’til the storms of destruction pass by.” -Psalm 57:1

God is not a big, fluffy teddy bear to run to when you need to throw a tantrum.  He’s not a neutral zone where anyone can come and get away from trouble.  He’s almighty and holy.  He’s a righteous judge and knows the heart of every man.  He’s unable to be OK with sin in any amount or kind.  He’s perfect.  He is to be feared.  And anyone who might try to stand before him would find themselves toast without the means he has provided to cause none of that righteous anger against sin to be aimed at them.  And that means is Christ.  Christ is the propitiation (big, church word) for us who believe in him, that is, he takes all the condemnation aimed at us from God.  To say it another way, Christ satisfies the need for God to destroy sin and sinner.  If God were to ignore sin he would not be a good God or a just God.  God’s perfect justice demands the destruction of sin and the sinner.  Otherwise the malignancy of sin (which we all see everyday in our broken world and in our own lives) would spread unchecked, and God would not be sovereign or good.  But God is not only perfectly just he is also gloriously gracious and merciful.  He is love.  Therefore he humbled himself to be what we could not be and do what we could not do.  That is mercy.  And for the Christian, calling on God’s mercy as displayed in Christ, is to call on the only power strong enough to shield our souls from the lies and traps and chains we so easily believe and turn to.   We call on this mercy in our prayers every day.  We call on this mercy when we face our failures once again.  We call on this mercy when we feel the threat of fears that we were once controlled by.  In calling on God’s mercy we remind our souls to hope in the God who died for our sins so that we could be in friendship with him and no longer fear his judgement.

Remember God’s Sovereignty

“I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me.” – Psalm 57:2

Whatever we flee to for refuge must be more powerful than the situations we’re fleeing from.  Only God can be that.  I don’t claim to understand the workings of God’s sovereignty or the whys.  But I know that when I face the sting of death, or the fear of rejection, or the terror of an enemy, or the betrayal of a companion or any other hard and painful suffering, there is only One who can do anything about it.  The Creator of the universe.  It’s in knowing that the very God I run to for refuge is the God who has designed this suffering in my life to purify my faith and make me more like Christ that I find a true place to hide.  He may not take away the pain of this suffering, but he’s the only one who can.  And one day he will take it away.  It may not be now.  But it will be.  In the mean time, I run to the One who rules over it and trust him to use it as a tool in my life for my good.  He cares.  He hears.  He loves.  And He will rescue.  In remembering God’s sovereignty I hide my soul from the lies that God is punishing or God has forgotten or God is helpless.  He rules over what hurts me and he uses it to fulfill his good purposes for me.

Expect God’s Faithfulness

“He will send from heaven and save me; he will put to shame him who tramples on me. God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness!” Psalm 57:3

Knowing God’s faithfulness requires a history with God.  If you don’t have much of a history with him, look to the book of his-story, and look to his people both living and dead.  The God of the Bible has a long history of unbroken promises and faithfulness to unfaithful people.  As the psalms say so often, his faithfulness reaches to the skies!  If I were to try to write out the zillions of ways God has shown he is faithful there wouldn’t be enough atmosphere to contain the words!  But when we find ourselves in the midst of the storms of destruction God’s faithfulness comes into question in our minds.  Has he forgotten us?  Is he even there?  Does he care?  This is where the Bible points us to a cloud of witness who say: God is faithful!  He will not abandon!  Hebrews 11 is famous for being the hall of faith, calling to account the names and stories of the people of old who have lived by faith.  But as you read through these stories and names it is not the faith of these people so much that encourages ours, but the faithfulness of the One they had faith in.  Noah built an ark from faith, believing what God warned him.  But it was God who saved Noah and his family from the storm of destruction that came on the whole world!  Abraham ultimately believed God when his body was as good as dead despite his failed attempt to fulfill God’s promise for him.  But it was God who did the miracle of giving Abraham and Sarah Isaac despite their dying bodies.  And I could go on and on to recount how God was faithful to Joseph even in the betrayal of his brothers and the lies that landed him in Pharaoh’s prison.  And how God did not forget his people in Egypt but prepared and sent Moses, hearing their cries for deliverance from slavery even though they were a stiff-necked people.  And how God heard the humble confession of a prostitute in a wall of a city he was about to destroy and saved Rahab.   Not to mention Ruth and Noami or Esther or Daniel or Paul or the many who have died as a result of their faith and who’s deaths have been the seed through which a harvest of souls were faithfully rescued by God.  I remember God’s faithfulness as I read my Bible, look to the lives of Christians throughout history and in my life today and look back at my life as I’ve imperfectly walked with him.  He is faithful!  Remembering this is sure refuge for my tired soul.

I may not be able to see my soul like I see my body, but just as my body would run to a strong structure to hide from a destroying storm, my soul runs to God to hide from the destructions that threaten when I face pain, death, betrayal, temptations, my sin, weariness, anxiety and many other soul-storms.  My soul runs when I open my mouth and call on his mercy, when I recall God’s power over all things, and when I open my Bible and remember his faithfulness.

Meditations on Psalm 61, 62 and 68

Psalm 61

 “Hear my cry O God… for you O God have heard…”

God hears me.  He has heard me.  This is quite astounding if I stop and think about it.  If I want someone to listen, someone who can make a difference, someone who cares and I actually get an audience with that person it’s a big deal.  I leave those conversations feeling better.  Feeling hopeful.

How much more if the Creator of the universe, the One who designed my ears and knows the hidden person of my heart… how much more astounding that He hears me.  He listens.

Is it God who I run to in my weakness and faintness of heart?  Or do I run to food.  Sleep. TV. Distraction…?  Why???  If God hears me, if he cares, if he’s listening, if he’s there for me why would I go to sleep, or TV, or the fridge??  Oh help my unbelief God!

“You have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.”

What is the heritage God gives to those who fear his name?

Read the last verse of Isaiah 54 and then go back and read what “this” is.  There are enough promises there to keep me trusting and praying and pressing on for a lifetime!

Psalm 62

“For God alone my soul waits in silence…”

Three hidden, intangible things:  God alone. My soul. Waiting in silence.

All three I must live in.

On God alone rests my salvation and glory.  All my hope for being able to stand before the living God and not be consumed rests on Him.  All my hope for glory, for being beautiful again, for being the Imago Dei one I was created to be, for being like Christ.. it all rests on God alone.

It’s a waiting of the soul.  Not a sit-and-do-nothing-and-wait waiting, but a carrying on through the storms and dullness of life while with is a hopeful look up.

In silence.  There are no words.  There is no magic spell to be spoken, no special prayer.  The salvation, the glory, the protection and strength I wait for and hope in comes not for any special plea or recitation.  My mouth is shut.  I open it only to pour out my heart to the One in which all my trust lies.  But the pouring out of my heart is not the magic key that unlocks the door to the end of my waiting in my soul upon God alone in silence.  The pouring out is simply an emptying of all that stirs my soul.  It is a return to God alone, in my soul, to silent waiting.

Psalm 68

“Blessed be the LORD who daily bears us up; God is our salvation.”
“Awesome is God… he is the one who gives power and strength to his people.”

If I am bearing up it is God who is doing the bearing.  I don’t pull myself up by my bootstraps.  I pull myself up by the strength that God supplies.  It is not my own.  It is he.  And even when I am not pulling myself up by his strength I am falling on his strength and he is still the one doing the bearing up.


Psalm 5

These are my sacred minutes. Here in the dark, in the quiet, before everyone gets up, with a hot cup of coffee, a pen, my journals and Bible in this corner chair.

I come here every morning and I… groan. This morning I opened Psalm 5 after I mumbled out groanings and jumbled-up words, searching for how to start the day when my mind is already barraged with fears and doubts and its not even 6 AM yet.

“Give ear to my words, O Lord; consider my groaning. Give attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you do I pray. O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.” 

A sacrifice?

Truth comes to mind: Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God… …a sacrifice of praise, the fruit of your lips giving thanks to His name…

I move on through pleas for deliverance, confessions of languishing, reasons for asking- for the sake of your steadfast love (Psalm 6:4), more questions- Why? Why does the Lord seem to be sitting there doing nothing while people, in their pride, don’t seek God, keep doing wrong and think nothing of God and seem to succeed in their god-less, proud ways?

These were my oldest son’s questions last night in his anger, in his wanting to be right and despising correction. I looked into his red face and bulging eyes and assured him that this is nothing new. Many 9 year old boys have faced the same corrections and consequences throughout time. This is life here in this fallenness. We aren’t right. We’re wrong. And there’s only two things to do with the the object of love who does wrong: Reject him or Redeem him.

There is no fairy dust or magic wand you sprinkle over a person that instantly makes them flawless and perfect. There’s only blood. Self-sacrificing, righteous blood spilled to fulfill the rejection and at the same time redeem. There’s only a Life planted like a seed in the dirt of our soiled hearts. There’s only time taken to correct and train and discipline in love, using the wrong to produce the right.

And the only right now is not pre-fallen innocence. The right now is letting go of Eden to embrace a cross: to loose my life, my plans, my desires for the way things should be, to gain the eternal life that Christ produces in me through self-sacrificial loving of another fallen-one in His name. And when my doubts come and I’m tempted by my own desires and I hear:

Flee like a bird to your mountain, for behold, the wicked bend the bow; they have fitted their arrow to the string to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart; if the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do? 

 Let my answer be:

 MY mountain? Flee to my mountain? In the Lord I take refuge! The Lord is where He should be! The Lord is ruling! The Lord is sees what’s going on! The Lord tests me in this time, He knows me! The Lord will take care of the wicked. The Lord does what’s right! Always! And He loves to see me do what’s right. That’s why He tests me, to rid me of wickedness and draw out righteousness. One day I will see Him face to face. My mountain? NO! Flee to my strength, my rights, my plans, my dreams? NO! God forbid! I will flee to my Savior. I’ll run to Him, the Righteous-Maker, my Redeemer.


What are you learning?

I’m late in joining the “What are you learning?” segment at Gina’s place today (Chat’s With an “Old Lady”). But I really need to sit down and reflect on what I was touched by this morning. I so want my heart to be changed! Be sure to go over to Chat’s With An “Old Lady” and share what you’re learning as you feed on God’s word.

I read Psalm 100 and 101 this morning. These words really spoke to me:

Know that the LORD, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we
; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture
.” -Psalm 100:3 (emphasis added by me)

I will behave wisely in a perfect way. Oh when will You come to me? I will walk within my house with a perfect heart. I will set nothing wicked before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; It shall not cling to me. A perverse heart shall depart from me; I will not know
.” – Psalm 101:2-4 (emphasis added by me)

This new person I am in Christ, God made. Not me. I am part of the family of God now… His flock. And He who began this good work in me will be faithful to complete it! Oh what hope this gives my weak and faint heart! I worry and fret and become overwhelmed with the mess I’ve made, the choices others make, the mountains that seem to lie before me, but God started this new life in me and He will finish it. I’ll just keep trusting in His promises and working hard to cast off every sin and weight that so easily entangles me and keeps me from walking by childlike faith in who He is, obeying what He says, and running to Him for forgiveness when I don’t obey.

Then I move onto Psalm 101 and read those terrible (terrible in an awesome sort of way) words that make me tremble. They are the desire of my heart but I’ve already fallen oh so short of them and I fear I’ll continue to. So I rejoice in the implications of the question in the middle of those “I will’s”. “Oh when will You come to me?” It’s by HIM, His coming, His reigning in me that I may behave wisely in a perfect way, walking in my house with a perfect heart.

Oh come Lord Jesus come! Come reign in me! If I’ve held back any part of my heart I plead with You to come to me and conquer it now! Take it for Your possession and set up Your kingdom in my entire heart!

Redeeming the time