Our Refuge and Afflictor

In light of everything going on in the economy and in our family’s life, I have spent some time thinking over and over the words of one particular psalm. Psalm 46 is pretty incredible. It pictures God as a refuge. Here’s the first 3 verses:

God is our refuge and strength,

a helper who is always found in times of trouble.

Therefore we will not be afraid,

though the earth trembles

and the mountains topple

into the depths of the seas,

though its waters roar and foam

and the mountains quake with its turmoil.

In the Old Testament, a refuge was a place to run to out of great need. It was a cave to hide in or a city to flee to in order to have assurance of protection. Likewise, so is God. Our refuge isn’t a place; it’s a being. We run to God and know what true safety is – the arms of the everlasting Father. But Psalm 46 isn’t all grins and giggles. If we keep reading, we see more encouragement. We see that God cannot be toppled and that God rules over nations and kingdoms. Eventually we get to verse 10, where we are encouraged to simply be still and know that God is God, and He will be exalted in the entire earth. When the mountains of our lives are toppling, when the foundations are shaking, when everything in our circumstances feels like it’s falling into the heart of the sea, we can be still. But sometimes we are so quick to get to verse 10 and the comfort we find there that we run past the deeply uncomfortable words of verse 8:

Come, see the works of the Lord, who brings devastation on the earth..

Those mountains toppling and falling? The seas roaring and quaking? Those are the works of the Lord. So the double truth of Psalm 46 is that God is our refuge, but He is also our afflictor. He’s where we run to, but He is also who we are running from whether we recognize it or not. So where’s the comfort in that?

For me, I have seen the Lord over these past years one by one quake my foundations. He  has forced me to a status, with me kicking and screaming, where I can find no hope in circumstance or no self-definition in the things of this world. That’s not easy, and that’s why I still cling to the foundations of my life instead of running to God. But the truth is that troubled economic times and family sickness can force us to a place where we find our true identity in Christ alone. We cling to Christ alone. We find hope in Christ alone.

So, as hard as it is, we must say to the Lord – Afflict us, God, that we might find true refuge in you.

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  • Jana Kelley says:

    Good for me to hear. Thank you.

  • andyblanks says:

    I needed that this morning.

    Thanks, Michael.

  • andy says:

    but what about when my mountains are falling into the sea and my foundations are shaken, and i know he’s forcing me to that status, i know he is but i’m not there yet. and i don’t know what else to do. i don’t know how else to get there. and i cling to him the best i can but the mountains are still falling. is all i have left to do is sit and wait for it to stop? wait for this to go away? i know god is working and moving but at the same time it feels so empty.

  • Michael K. says:

    I get that, Andy, and in a sense, you do have to sit there. But I also think honesty is a great thing, especially in prayer. I think the temptation is to hunker down and move inside yourself. But if we can keep communicating, with God and with our community, then we open ourselves up to hear from Him in the meantime.

  • jenpinkner says:

    Thank you, Michael. I was just remarking to Greg the other day…”do you think the more we learn about who God is, the more he puts us in places circumstantially where our hearts have to cling only to him as painful as that might be?” It seems true, and, in the midst, soooo hard but soooo good to know Him. I just have to remember not to run away and numb myself. I need to remember everyday how he has been and will be my refuge and strength.

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