Refuge

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A child’s world is most often a world of innocence. A world where faith is easy because we are cared for, provided for, loved, and safe. I know this is not always the case, and this is tragic and should not be, but for me, it was easy to trust as a child.

It was not until I lost a baby after 23 difficult weeks of pregnancy that I stopped trusting, that I stopped feeling safe and provided for. Suddenly I was afraid of everything.

Although I had always known that God does not always say “yes” to prayers about healing, that wonderful, faithful people did not always live out their lives in full, that heartache and tragedy were not unknown by many people I knew, it had never affected me so directly. Now I felt vulnerable and open to any and everything that could go wrong. And I could not stop imagining all the things that could go wrong.

It has taken me a long time to figure out what God means when he says, “Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place – the Most High, who is my refuge – no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent.” (Psalm 91:9-10 ESV) God has not promised an absence of evil, but only that it will not be used to destroy us.

When God looks at our lives, He sees the past, present and future; we only see the past and present – how short that must be to Him. But He has not left us alone.

God has provided a place for us to take refuge during the difficulties and trials of mortal life which doesn’t banish the difficulties and trials, but instead gives us a reason to stand strong through them. A refuge is a place to feel safe and to hold on to hope. Just as a child can feel safe and hopeful in their parents arms, even in scary situations, so God offers us the same comfort under the shadow of His wings.

In Old Testament times, the mercy seat lay beneath the shadow of the wings of the cherubim and this was the place where God met with His people. In the New Testament, Jesus became the mercy seat or meeting place between God and man. “So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” (Hebrews 6:17-20 ESV)

This hope that we can hold onto like an anchor is the certain hope of a future. “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:20-22 ESV)

If we can hold on to this hope, if we can trust that He is faithful, if we can have the faith of a little child, then nothing that happens to us can destroy us utterly.

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison…” (2 Corinthians 4:16-17 ESV)

Vision

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Do I really want to live forever? Sometimes I think I don’t! When I’m sweeping the floor knowing that soon it will be scattered again, when I’m washing dishes and soon as I’m done another dirty dish slides onto the counter, when I’m washing the endless pile of dirty clothes and fixing the endless problems in a house, and dealing with a broken down car and feeling lonely or sick and children making so much noise and all the bad news on the radio… at these times living forever seems like it might be just another endless chore.

But then there are moments that catch me with an overwhelming desire to live! Those first few moments of perfect connection when after all the struggle a new life is in my arms and those beautiful big eyes stare into mine and the little warm body fits so perfectly. Those times with friends when all we share in common is there and the things we are trying to do are working and we feel so together and able to hack down mountains if need be. Those times when I am surrounded by beauty: a perfect pink and orange sunrise reflecting in sparks here and there from the broken up ice rising and falling on the ocean surface. Or staring into the face of a gorgeous peony with all its rich shades of colour and intertwined and ragged edged petals. The times when I read His Word and I get it – for a fleeting moment this life makes sense and I can almost start to see the beauty of His forever. And isn’t that His promise, “no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9). We can hardly imagine what He has in store, but we have evidence that He knows what gives us completeness in this life.

Afterall, it’s not the man-made things that truly satisfy us – the tall many-windowed buildings of many shapes and sizes, the jam-packed shelves full of made-in-china plastic and paper, the mazes of roads going this way and that, the collection of man-made litter on a beach. No, we go to the edge of all that to stare at the ocean, to dig hands through sand broken from rocks much older than us, we go above to stand on top of a mountain when all that is man-made is small and all that is God-made is big. We go away to stand at the foot of a tree that has lived much longer than we and still is beautiful and grand.

So, when your vision fails, when forever seems dull and unattractive, step out to seek just one small bit of God’s love in the beauty and perfection that surrounds us in a blade of grass or a snowflake or a flower. “If God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 6:30)

It’s hard to keep this momentary joy alive in the mundane and maybe that’s why we need to surround ourselves with those brief moments of intense heart-lifting and understanding. God’s creation is small pieces of the joy He has in mind for us – He knows what completes us better than we do, and because we have all these brief moments, we can trust that He knows and that one day, His plan for forever will fill us and leave no room for dissatisfaction or despair.