Meditations

1 In you, O Lord, do I take refuge;
    let me never be put to shame!
In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me;
    incline your ear to me, and save me!
Be to me a rock of refuge,
    to which I may continually come;
you have given the command to save me,
    for you are my rock and my fortress.

Psalm 71:1-3

In the ancient world, villages, peoples, and armies sought protection in a refuge or a fortress. If you’ve read J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, or seen the movies, think Helm’s Deep. The fortress was a place of retreat and defense. It was a shelter.

The psalmist affirms here that the Lord is our refuge, our rock, our fortress.

It is easy for our circumstances and situations in life to overwhelm us. Cancer, covid, catastrophes, raising teenagers, job difficulties, death, disease, interpersonal conflicts, or any number of other events and circumstances can trouble us.

In David’s case, he spent years wandering from rock to cave hiding out from King Saul who wanted to take his life. And David sought the Lord’s protection, and the Lord protected David. Time and again David trusted in the Lord, and the Lord delivered.

Whatever your frustration or concern, your worry or fear, your enemy or your challenge, take refuge in the Lord. But how can we seek refuge in the Lord?

  • Seek refuge in the Lord’s Words. When you make time to read, study, meditate, memorize, and apply God’s Word, you are taking in God’s thoughts. Much of our frustration, worry, and fear derive from a worried mind and burdened thoughts. So dwell on God’s thoughts. Think on his promises. Find refuge in his Words.
  • Seek refuge in the Lord’s presence. Many of us like to solve problems. We like the challenge of navigating a situation, figuring out the next steps, and planning for success. But often we remain stressed and frustrated because we are seeking refuge in our own answers. Pray. Bring your situations to the Lord specifically and intentionally. Seek his presence through prayer.
  • Seek refuge in the the Lord’s people. While our final and ultimate hope cannot be in others and must be in God alone, God did not create us to be alone. God created us for community. He created us to encourage and support one another. Find a friend you trust who is spiritually maturing and share your burden with them. Just someone else aware of your burden and praying for you can aid you in finding refuge in the Lord. Also, intercessory prayer for each other is a heavenly means of experiencing refuge in the Lord.

When we are in need, we need to find refuge in the Lord. Our situations and burdens are not for us alone. God grants them to us or allows us to experience them precisely because he wants us to seek refuge in him. He also wants to use our experience of seeking refuge in the Lord as a means of testimony to others.

Note how the psalmist closes this hymn:

17O God, from my youth you have taught me,
    and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
18 So even to old age and gray hairs,
    O God, do not forsake me,
until I proclaim your might to another generation,
    your power to all those to come.

19 Your righteousness, O God,
    reaches the high heavens.
You who have done great things,
    O God, who is like you?
20 You who have made me see many troubles and calamities
    will revive me again;
from the depths of the earth
    you will bring me up again.
21 You will increase my greatness
    and comfort me again.
22 I will also praise you with the harp
    for your faithfulness, O my God;
I will sing praises to you with the lyre,
    O Holy One of Israel.

23 My lips will shout for joy,
    when I sing praises to you;
    my soul also, which you have redeemed.

24 And my tongue will talk of your righteous help all the day long,
for they have been put to shame and disappointed
    who sought to do me hurt.

Psalm 71:17-24 (emphasis mine)

After David sought refuge in the Lord, he promised to testify of the Lord’s goodness to the next generation (v. 18), to praise the Lord’s faithfulness (v. 22), to respond with praise and song (v. 23), and to tell of the Lord’s righteous help “all day long” (v. 24).

When God comes through, we don’t need to remain silent. This is another important reason for God’s people to be apart of our search for refuge. They are witnesses to our situations as well as witnesses to God’s provisions. God’s people are also part of our audience for declaring his praises and his interventions.

So, think back to how God has been your refuge. Share that praise with someone! And by all means, seek the Lord for refuge today.

Over the last couple of years one of our staff members has shared a recurring encouragement to me. Mike Matheney has said to me to “Hang in there.”

In normal (pre-covid) circumstances and ministry, hanging in there is another way of encouraging perseverance. Over the last 18 months or so that phrase has taken on heightened significance.

Sometimes, it feels like we are barely hanging on.

In his book, Seven Leaders: Preachers and Pastors, Iain Murray reflected upon pastor and mentor Kenneth MacRea. MacRea pastored in a remote village off the coast of Scotland. When he was eighty MacRea penned these pertinent and insightful words:

There is only one thing I know I can do well. I cannot lead, but I can truthfully say that I am able to hang on. It may arise from natural stubbornness, but I know that popular religious movements which, despite their lack of scriptural support, carry away so many good people, leave me entirely unaffected. I believe that I can set my teeth and hold on, but that is all I am good for.

Kenneth MacRea, quoted by Iain Murray in Seven Leaders.

Did you catch that phrase, “able to hang on”? The context in the chapter reflects on pastoral ministry and theological fidelity, but the phrase is applicable in our situations today.

I’m writing this reflection on the day our county schools begin again. There is a lot going on in our lives. There are a lot of tensions and difficulties surrounding us in our community, in our personal lives, and across the world.

Are you able to hang on?

  • For some of us, hanging on has meant remote school, sending your kids back to school, and worrying about the spread of Covid in school.
  • For some of us, hanging on has meant dealing with sickness and recovering much more slowly than we would like.
  • For some of us, hanging on has meant grieving without the normal experiences of visitation, a funeral, and friends/family to hug and visit during the death of a loved one.
  • For some of us, hanging on has meant a loss of job or loss of freedom.
  • For some of us, hanging on has meant learning to do your job differently and changing habits and practices just to get by.
  • For some of us, hanging on has meant internal and psychological pressures that no one else will ever know.
  • For some of us, hanging on has meant remaining faithful to a spouse who doesn’t act with love toward you and trying to sustain a marriage that you’re not sure will make it.
  • For some of us, hanging on has meant learning new coping mechanisms to deal with the stresses of a pandemic and all the ways it has affected our lives.
  • For some of us, hanging on has meant __________________ (you can fill in the blank here).

You get it, don’t you? Maybe last month, maybe last year, maybe as you’re reading this right now, you’re just hanging on.

Some of us have both our hands wrapped around our situations hanging on rather easily. Others of us are hanging on with only one hand. And for probably more than a few of us, we feel like our fingers are slipping and we’re losing our grip.

What happens if you let go?

What happens if your grip slips?

What happens if you can’t hold on any longer?

If you are follower of Jesus, remember this.

If you let go, if your grip slips, if you stop hanging on, then you will be ok. Jesus is holding on to you and holding on for you.

Jesus gave us this assurance:

27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

John 10:27-30

Jesus promised that he is hanging on to us. Jesus promised that the Father is hanging on to us. And no one (circumstance, burden, difficulty, sickness, person, Satan, etc.) can pull us from the hand of our Savior.

No matter what’s going on today, this week, or in the internal processes of your life, remember that you are in the hands of Jesus.

Hang on. Hold on. Don’t let go. Trust in the Lord. Take time to read Psalm 31. Pray for the Lord’s deliverance and rescue. Take time to read John 10. Rest in the hand of Jesus.

Hang in there. But if you let go, remember that Jesus won’t.

Photo by Dương Trần Quốc on Unsplash