As this season of family togetherness continues, I find it a struggle to deal with this new normal—where death has taken part of my family away and urges me to spend time with those who remain while I can but being mindful of how close I should get to those family members who remain. So, how do I balance the expectation of happiness at this time of year despite my feelings to the contrary? How does anyone deal with the struggle where the world around you is celebrating and expects everyone to be happy, but you are hurting, lonely, or grieving on the inside? How do we find peace in this season?
The Shelter of The Most High
When my inner person battles with the outside world, the Holy Spirit reminds me that God is a refuge. The problem is that this phrase evokes images of soldiers battling an invading army from behind high stone walls. There are people loading catapults and a castle somewhere in the distance. Images that are nothing like my reality. When there are overwhelming emotions and unbearable situations, how does “God is a refuge” even apply? One of the places we find God depicted as a refuge comes in Psalm 91:
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Psalm 91:1-2.
Merriam-webster.com defines refuge as shelter or protection from danger or distress. Looking to Psalm 91, the shelter is a place to “dwell,” or to live. This is not just any place. It is the shelter of the “Most High” God. It is a place where the Almighty is near enough to cast His shadow, and we can be covered by that shadow. Wow! Consider living your life forever in the shadow of the Most High God. That thought absolutely floors me and makes me excited! If I am honest though, those feelings also have an undercurrent of apprehension and doubt. That place seems just a little unattainable. Why would God do that? How do I even get to that place?
These questions lead to a point I overlooked—a refuge is a shelter or protection from danger or distress. This place has a purpose. Numbers 35 provides a great explanation of a refuge’s purpose. In Numbers 35, God decreed there were to be cities of refuge. (Numbers 35:11). If a person who unintentionally killed another could make their way to one of the cities of refuge, there was a chance that they could be safe from one who wanted to avenge their loved one. There was a catch—the person would only be safe while he remained in the city of refuge under the protection of the high priest. (Numbers 35:28) That person would have to dwell in that city until the high priest died. There was no protection outside of the city of refuge. Looking to God as our refuge is similar in that our protection stems from our relationship and proximity to the Father.
Not only does a place of refuge have a purpose but it is sought out by those in need. Imagine the person filled with fear and running for his life to reach a city of refuge. There is no safety or protection as long as he is running but he runs with passion because the need for refuge is great. After he has been assured of the priest’s protection, breathing is restored to normal and fears are calmed. Then, and only then, can there be peace. The same is true for us in this season.
The God Who Cares
A person not in dire straits physically or emotionally does not need to look for refuge. Those dealing with emotional turmoil are desperate for a hiding place. They may be grieving a loss due to death. They may be grieving and lonely due to not being able to physically be near a loved one during this year, or they may have an ongoing battle with mental health issues. Those who have been overwhelmed by the cares of life need refuge. God is that refuge. First Peter 5:7 tells us to “cast all of your anxieties on him because He cares for you.” Out of love, God has created a refuge for each of us within Him. Let’s pursue that place of refuge by telling Him about our anxieties, doubts, and feelings in prayer. Sit with Him in quiet time to experience peace and calm. He is the only place where our personal calm and peace can be restored when there is inner conflict.
If you are struggling to find peace in this season of merriment, may you look to God as your refuge. May His peace, that passes all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7)