What? I picture myself with death nipping at my heals, my knees torn and bleeding from stumbling, clothes ripped and ragged from racing through briars. I see myself squeaking through the opening into God’s refuge, bent at my waist, gasping for breath. All I feel is relief and suspicion that this God refuge will actually work.
But it does.
Finding refuge in Christ allows me to stand firm in the battle. It strengthens my faith. It enables me to delight in my God.
God, as my refuge, causes my roots to grow deep and wide so that I stay fruitful in times of distress.
I stay fruitful and, even, dare I admit, happy. Blessed is also translated as happy. “Happy is the one who makes God their refuge.” Happy: don’t we all need a triple shot of happy in our days?
The Sermon on the Mount
Making God my refuge brings to life the Sermon on the Mount:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven, blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted, blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth, blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be filled, blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy, blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:1-10 ESV
The Great Eight
When my spirit is helpless, I discover God’s kingdom.
I know comfort in my distress.
Humility provides abundance.
My hunger for righteousness is forever satisfied.
I extend mercy when I receive mercy.
Purity of heart brings clarity and I see God.
There’s only room for peace in God’s refuge.
The persecution that drives me to His refuge brings me to my inheritance.
I discover the kingdom of God when I make Him my refuge. I receive comfort in my distress and know my inheritance. When God is my refuge I am filled and receive mercy. Making God my refuge strips away my ability to affect change in my life and my heart is purified. When I step back and let God fight for me, I promote peace and am called the Daughter of God. Persecution drives me to make God my refuge and there I know his kingdom.
Blessed is the man or woman who runs straight into God’s refuge. Broken. Bleeding. Busted. If you want to be happy despite your circumstances, make God your refuge. You experience blessing. You will know peace in the midst of your fire.
On my Facebook profile, I reminded us that not only is God present to help us, but he is also well proved. He has proven himself over and over and over again that he loves and cares for us and never ever leaves or forsakes us. He is trustworthy. He deserves our devotion.
And as we devote our lives to him within the refuge he provides, we become blessed. Happy.
I could use a blessing, could you?
Let’s determine, together, to run straight into his wide, welcoming arms. We find our refuge, our peace, and our blessings in the sweet place of relationship with him.
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Escape. Retreat. Refuge. We all long for some type of relief at some point in our lives. For some it’s tragedy, health scares, or just the mundane everyday-ness of life. And sometimes in our day, we can be on top of the world to the depths of the pit all in one day. Our emotions run rampant and we feel ecstatic one moment and ticked off the next. Why is that?
Emotions are fickle, unreliable little tyrants who have far too much control in our life. Circumstances are those things that drive the emotions so if emotions are tyrants and circumstances are conductors, then what do we do with what we feel? How can we process our emotions and feelings and frustrations in the midst of controlling circumstances?
By living in refuge.
Refuge is defined as a shelter, protection, aid or relief. God is all of that. He shelters us. We find comfort in his love. He protects us by defending us. He offers us aid if we will accept it. And sometimes, he just plain offers us relief for a brief moment when we meet him in the secret place.
Living this life is a both/and kind of experience. We live in this world where we experience all the good and bad the world has to offer. We also live in God’s kingdom where we find peace and comfort that makes no sense when we consider our circumstances.
But back to those emotions. Process your emotions in the refuge that God provides. Show him your hurts. Scream your pain. Unfold your hands from your shame.He welcomes you with open arms. He pulls on threads that don’t belong and replaces them with vibrancy that makes your life nuanced with depth and color.
“The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.” Psalm 9:9-10.
Seek him. Seek him for relief from life. It’s easy to self-medicate ourselves with food, chocolate, coffee, alcohol, drugs, tv, pleasure, or hobbies. True relief comes when we bring ourselves, our messed up selves, to God and say: “Here I am. I can’t keep going. Help.” And he does.
He gently wipes your tears. You’re kindly pointed in the right direction, and he walks with you. He won’t forsake you if you seek him.
A bowl full of jello. Shaking. Quivering. Even after the bowl’s been bumped, the quivering continues. It starts on the outside and works its way to the inside. This is what I feel like when I hear bad news.
“He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.” Psalm 112:7
We don’t have to fear the unknown or tomorrow’s headlines. But we do. We fear because we wonder whether God is who he says he is. We wonder if we are who he says we are. Our hearts are not steadfast.
Imagine the lighthouse on the cliff. That rock? It doesn’t move. The lighthouse is firm and secure and able to do its job of shining a beacon of light to those who need it. Even when the storm rages and beats the cliff and waves overcome, the rock doesn’t move.
What is your storm? What is the thing that is overwhelming you? Is it doubt, addiction, or failing relationships? Is it your thoughts, fears, or anxiety?
We all have junk. We all suffer. Sometimes it’s because of our own foolish choices and sometimes it’s because something comes to us uninvited like cancer or rejection or slander.
Our afflictions, as massive as they appear to us, can be used to bring about a brokenness in our lives that, in the end, make us the strongest version of ourselves. When I am weak, He is strong. When I cannot go on, He carries me. In my weaknesses I see the mighty strength of God.
Our weaknesses, our afflictions are not given to us in order to make us pay for some sin in our life.
Two Types of Schools
They are given to us so that we might know the power of God working in our lives. It’s not the School of Hard-Knocks that teach us grace. It’s the University of Suffering that cause us to know grace and the power of the Holy Spirit to transform us.
“For great is the his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.” Psalm 117:2
God is faithful through any bad news that comes our way. His love is so great that not only does he walk with us through our suffering, he is faithful to teach us the painful lesson of enduring. And it’s not the enduring, suck it up, stiff upper lip kind of enduring, but it’s the kind of enduring that grows our faith.
When we endure pain, we know Christ’s sufferings and the power of His resurrection.
Enduring teaches us to be faithful no matter what. It teaches us to understand that God loves us with a soft and gentle and fierce kind of love that is reliable and true.
Bad news. It happens. It’s inevitable. But here’s the good news: God is faithful. He is steadfast. He is trustworthy.
Today, when you’re tempted to fall in the face of fear, fall forward into the arms of God. He’s got whatever life is throwing at you and He is big enough to hold it and you close to His heart.
Trust his heart for you: it is only good.
Coming Next Month. . .
Are you weary? Heavy-burdened? Are you at the end of yourself?
Next month begins The Refuge Series where we dive into the benefits of making God our refuge. Look for graphics and snippets on my Facebook profile, and weekly devotions here at Welcome Grace.
The battle rages within our hearts. We scrabble and crumble depending on the circumstance. If we’re feeling strong we get our scrappy little fists in the fight and knock the enemy out of the ring. We crumble when we receive an unexpected hit. It could be that pride sneaks from behind and knocks us off our feet and we lay stunned.
The battles within eventually get reflected into our visible lives because we’re who we are on the inside not what we display. If we struggle with submission to authority, but put on a submissive front, eventually a reaction will reveal the struggle. Pride shows up in a judgmental comment or a refusal to believe that God has chosen and loves you.
Our circumstances are distractions to the battles that rage in our hearts. Once we surrender our lives to Christ the real battle begins between the Spirit and the Flesh. Oftentimes I think of the flesh as my rebel self because I don’t seem to do what I know is right no matter how hard I try. But let’s flip the switch: The Spirit part of ourselves is our rebel heart.
Was Jesus a rebel? Some say he was. I say he was on a mission to reveal the Father’s heart to humanity and people have tried to pigeon-hole God and figure him out and make him like us: Easily swayed. Petulant. Angry. Abusive. Double-minded. And so man set up rules and regulations to follow in order to make God understandable and malleable. “If I do A, B, and C then God will do X, Y, and Z.”
The Rebel Heart
We need a rebel heart because the status quo threatens to lead us to apathy.
A rebel heart is our best defense against me-ism.
Ours is a heart divided: we have the heart of the spirit and the heart of the flesh. So often the flesh rebels against the spirit, but let’s flip that concept upside down. Let’s give the spirit permission to rebel against the flesh.
Once we surrender our lives to Christ we are given new hearts. God writes his heart on ours and places himself within us. However, the flesh still lives and needs to be crucified each day. This is why we need a rebel heart.
A heart that’s fully surrendered to Christ becomes a rebel heart. A heart that rebels against the status quo, the pride of life, lust of the eyes, and the flesh. A rebel heart doesn’t allow the flesh to take back the victory found in Christ.
I rebel against my flesh. I rebel against apathy. And I run straight towards God. There’s an insurrection with in my heart and the Spirit stakes His claim and turns my selfishness into generosity, my judgement into kindness, and my fear into trust.
The rebel heart wins when it’s strength and comfort is found in God. He is our help in times of trouble. He is our way of escape when we’re tempted. God is our commander and he is directing the greatest army in all creation. God leads us beside still waters where our hearts are refreshed and he also leads us into the battle where victory is assured.
We’re in this fight together. We face different challenges, but we serve the same God who arms us with his strength and makes our footsteps firm. I’m praying for you and would love to hear how your fight is going. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, write a comment here, or subscribe to receive weekly notes of encouragement in your day to day battle of transformation.
I do not presume to claim that I have marriage figured out. But I do claim that with God at the center, he is able to guide us through. I know that marriage is a beautiful hard. It’s beautiful because it’s a picture of God and his church. It’s hard because it’s two imperfect humans on the road to sanctification.
I’ve joined 29 other bloggers at Tiffany Montgomery’s blog for a month long series on marriage. Women will be sharing their snippets of wisdom through their ups and downs of marriage. Friends, it’s good stuff. Your heart will be touched.
Twenty years ago, I (Jessica Van Roekel) brought heavy baggage and high expectations into my marriage. Since then, I’ve discovered that God uses everything to build a marriage that glorifies him. Our strengths, weaknesses, expectations and disappointments all work together to show His Greatness in this marriage puzzle.
Does Marriage Feel like a puzzle?
We had differing expectations and ways to solve problems. We were determined to build our marriage following different “puzzle box tops.” Once we surrendered control to God, we learned that God was creating a new puzzle.
God threw out the pieces that didn’t fit.
He refitted things
Tossed new pieces into the puzzle
And waited until we relinquished a cherished puzzle piece to create a beautiful masterpiece.
I’m in the heartland, where the latest risk to my life was almost catching on fire while lighting a paper lantern. My evening enemies are no-see-um bugs and mosquitoes. My daytime struggles involve teaching the components of a literary essay. My troubles seem so puny.
My blessings seem too loud: My sunset colored evening amidst the cooling of the gloaming. My home that’s dry and a family that’s tucked safe into cozy beds seems too large too me tonight, too rich, too much. Not when there’s too much devastation happening to my fellow countrymen.
What do I know of watching waters rise higher and higher until they consume my home, my shelter, my refuge? What do I know of natural disasters? They seem unnatural. Devastating. Irregular. Unwelcome. Not natural, not expected, not normal. Not fair.
I don’t know what it’s like to suddenly be without home or roof over my head. When my children were small and we would have safety drills, they wanted to grab their cherished belongings so our safety drills were too long, with much hollering and concern. My children couldn’t grasp the magnitude of a serious disaster and the idea of leaving their treasures behind filled their hearts with indignation.
Belongings can be replaced but people cannot. And so we are here: I am safe in my second story bedroom: cozy in a chair, feet propped up on the bed, and cat purring. I’m surrounded by all things familiar: pictures, books, kids, dust bunnies, and a hundred year old floor covered in scars.
And someone, somewhere is surrounded by strangers. Possibly clinging to nothing except what they hold in their hearts and my heart breaks and cries for those affected by devastation to know this:
God sees you.
He hears your cry.
He is with you in the devastation. He is holding you close and whispering his love into your ear. He is holding you upright and he sees your heart breaking. He sees the shock and anger and fear that threaten to overwhelm. He sees and he cares. He calls you to himself in the midst of the devastation and promises to be your everything.
He is your bread of life and your fountain that never runs dry. He may feed you the bread of affliction, but he is with you in the darkness. He encompasses you and rallies around you and is for you, not against you. Cling to him, rely on him, let him carry you through.
When the waters of doubt and fear and anger overwhelm you and feel like the truth, know this Truth: God is. He was. And He will be. And you can take his faithfulness, steadfastness, and love and build your life on him. He wants to be the One who handles your fear and anger, and he wants to take the honest, gut-wrenching fear that you’re feeling from your shoulders and be the truth that sets you free.
Could he have diverted the storm? Yes. Does he still care for you? Absolutely. Does he still love you? Unequivocally. Does he still have good for you? Yes and yes and yes again. He is only good. He is your rock in the storm. And he hears your heart.
God hears our hearts. He sees us in the darkness and offers himself to be our light. I know that there are times when hope seems impossible to find, but God says that with him all things are possible. Even hope. Hope is Jesus. Hope is resting in who he says he is. He is peace. He is comfort. He is the rock we stand on when all else is sinking ground.
May God hold you close and may you make him famous in whatever you face today: emotional flood waters, literal flood waters, or unexpected disappointments. I’m praying for us all.
I write to encourage you that you can experience a vibrant, transformative relationship with God even if your past or your shame tells you otherwise. God invites you upward and onward, will you join him? You'll receive weekly devotionals straight to your inbox.