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When I think of the word Refuge, my mind goes to a wartime movie scene, when hurt and scared soldiers stumble into their home base. I see rest, nourishment, medical help, and deep breathing. There are large walls around the camp to protect the soldiers so they can be rejuvenated in peace. War is happening around them but they are sleeping soundly (I am also imagining Matt Damon as the star soldier but that’s just me).
“Refuge” is not a word that we often hear in today’s casual vernacular. Probably because it seems a bit dramatic when we say it from our cozy couches in a comfy American suburb while drinking our tea. Perhaps we don’t see our need for a refuge. But when I assess my life and internal dialogue I’m having throughout my day, I see it riddled with fear, doubt, and anxiety. When I look at the threat and danger of living in these lies, a place of refuge doesn’t sound so out of place.
The word “refuge” is used about 95 times in the Bible (at least within the ESV translation), the large majority of them being in the Psalms where David uses the word around 50 times. He begs God for refuge as he is hiding from his enemies and needing protection for his physical life and his spiritual well-being. Many times, David literally asks God to save his life.
Now, we would be fools to say that the Lord always gives us physical protection from the struggles and physical pain in this oh-so-painful world. But the kind of refuge that I am studying this year is spiritual refuge. A place where I can be protected from my doubt, insecurities, and fear, and receive rest, spiritual nourishment, healing, and the deep sighs of relief that only come when my soul is at peace.
The word “refuge” can be translated to “dwelling-place,” “shelter,” “seeking protection with hope,” and “asylum.”
The word “refuge” can be translated to “dwelling-place,” “shelter,” “seeking protection with hope,” and “asylum.” If we are going to be seeking safety and protection in the Lord, it’s important to address what we are seeking refuge from. As I began to think about what it is I (and a lot of women I know) am seeking safety from, a few different things came to mind.
(1) Refuge from being overcome by my life circumstances. It’s easy for me to become stressed out and beat up by what is going on in my personal life. It takes conscious effort for me to “cast my anxieties on him because he cares for me.” I know that he will not necessarily change circumstances, but I do know that he offers refuge from carrying it on my own and “fixing it” (why do I believe that it’s my job to fix everything?!). Knowing this leads me to freedom from the pressure of “getting over” the pain of my burdens. Imagine limping into your basecamp carrying your circumstances, and handing them to the Captain on your way in. He is asking for us to do that.
(2) Refuge from not being enough. The specifics of not being enough can be completely different for every person. For some, it’s the never-ending Instagram messages that can bring on shame when you don’t exercise that day or eat the dessert that strays from your meal plan. Perhaps you need refuge from the stream of baby announcements and engagements that flood your newsfeed without release. Or perhaps it’s the comparison of your friends. You see how well they manage their family’s DIY projects, marriages, and all you see are the ways you’ve messed up. But even if you somehow DO master meal planning, get married/have kids “on time,” or (fill in the blank where you would love to succeed), social media will not relent. It will find another area where you aren’t enough. Come sit behind the walls of God’s refuge, where you can breathe deeply and be you. He sees beyond your unfinished meal plan calendar, your weight loss goals that haven’t been met, or your Eharmony inbox that is empty. You are loved by Him and enough for Him.
But even if you somehow DO master meal planning, get married/have kids “on time,” or (fill in the blank where you would love to succeed), social media will not relent. It will find another area where you aren’t enough.
(3) Refuge from fear of wandering away. I don’t know if I’m alone in this, but I have this fear that I am not growing into the person that God desires me to be. Not because I’m struggling with crippling sin issues, but because as I age, I’m looking more and more different than the person I was growing up. I see issues a little more gray than I used to, my doctrine has shifted, I experience God in different ways than before. Instead of seeing this as signs of maturing and growing up with Jesus as my guide, I have fear. What if I’m interpreting the Word wrong and my theology is way off? What if I’m dying on hills that I’m not supposed to be? Or what if I’m taking certain issues too lightly? This leads to me depending on myself and my brain for assurance. The enemy loves to drop grenades filled with lies like, “You better figure this out the way He wants you to” or “Look at the girls you’re leading. They are way more solid than you! You are just a wanderer.” However, when I’m finding my refuge in the Lord, I don’t need to have this fear or doubt my place with Him. Finding refuge with Him means I’m not alone when I change. He will guide me in my thinking and correct me when I start to wander.
Through studying and contemplating about the word Refuge, I’ve been reminded over and over that our souls are in a war. We are in a war against the enemy, temptation, and our flesh. True fighting leads to fatigue and wounds. How could I even pretend that I could give myself refuge from that? Jesus is the only one that offers walls that are thick enough to keep the enemy and his clever tactics out. His are the only words that heal us and give us truth. He is the only one that has the power to heal us and make us able to fight.
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Image Credit: vgm8383, Creative Commons. Some changes made.