Refuge: 1) shelter or protection from danger or distress (2) a place that provides shelter or protection (3) something to which one has recourse in difficulty (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
As I entered the hotel’s marble foyer and smelled the heavenly perfume of roses, excitement about our mini-vacation flooded through me. My daughter and I were staying at a luxurious hotel in another city, ready to enjoy a mother-daughter adventure in the midst of a pampering environment. But I quickly realized that what seemed to be a refuge from the “real world” was actually just that: the real world. The AC and a running toilet both had to be fixed; a repairman in my room as I rested was not the refuge I had envisioned.
I decided to take my hopes outdoors, to the sparkling pool and lounge chairs, but had to quickly pack up and leave when the BBQ smoker at the restaurant triggered my asthma. There seems to be no escape when you have health issues; you take them with you wherever you go. It is hard to find the refuge I really want; a place of peace and serenity, tranquility and healing that brings comfort to my weary soul. I am constantly seeking it, but it seems I look for it in the wrong places. My efforts always lead to disappointment because nothing on this earth, not even a five-star hotel, can truly satisfy. I need a real refuge.
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Real Refuge Requires a Key
David, the Psalmist, also spent a lot of time seeking refuge, and his need to find a safe haven is the theme of many of his Psalms. When King Saul pursued him in order to take his life, David hid “in wilderness strongholds and in the hills of the Desert of Ziph” (1 Samuel 23:14). This was his physical refuge, and it was certainly not a five-star accommodation! The real key to his protection and safety, however, was not his location or even the men he had fighting with him.
The key to David’s true refuge was that he wholeheartedly sought the Lord who provided for his physical safety. Just as we cannot open a locked door without a key, we cannot open the door to true protection, safety, and peace without reverence and submission to the Lord. We unlock the door to refuge this way because God is our refuge; our unshakable security and shelter are in Him alone.
Scripture: “He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.” (Isaiah 33:6)
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You Need Eternal Refuge
Your soul first enters spiritual refuge when you trust in Jesus Christ as your savior and the Lord of your life. When Jesus died on the cross, he took on the full punishment for the wrong-doings, or sins, that separate all humans from the Holy God who created us. Forgiveness for these sins restores our relationship with the God who loved us enough to die for us. When you “confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). The Holy Spirit then comes to live “in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come” (2 Corinthians 1:22). Your eternal life starts the moment you accept Jesus as your savior, and it gives you the most important refuge you will ever receive: refuge from eternal death that is the penalty for unforgiven sin.
Accepting Jesus means that you are a permanent citizen of heaven, but you do not have to wait until you go there to reap all the benefits! The Bible tells us how to live so that we can experience our abundant life even now. Listen to this wisdom from the Psalms: “Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the Lord, ‘He is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God and I trust him’” (Psalm 91:1-2). When we pray and ask God for wisdom, read the Bible, sing songs of praise or come to Him with our deepest sorrows, we are choosing to dwell within the spiritual refuge that the Lord provides. Then we can boldly declare, along with David, “have mercy on me, for in you my soul takes refuge” (Psalm 57:1).
Scripture: “You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word.” (Psalm 119:114)
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Where Are You Seeking Refuge?
What foes do you fight? Do you fight against illness, like I do? Do you fight against a fearful spirit, anxiety, or depression? Perhaps, like David, your battle is with those who seem to be eager to cause conflict despite your best efforts towards peace. What steps do you take to find a peaceful refuge in the midst of these very real attacks? You may have tried the answers that the world gives, such as vacations, “me time,” or other forms of distraction.
There is nothing inherently wrong with these activities, but they will never bring lasting peace or sustenance to your soul. They might even open the door to more conflict or chaos. Using them as a substitute for the true refuge your soul craves will only bring disillusionment. Just ask the multitudes of people who have used credit cards to finance their many methods of escape, from vacations they cannot afford to items that crowd their closets and homes. Ask those who have experienced the devastation of addiction due, in part, to their misguided attempts at finding solace and refuge from the way they feel when they are sober. Whether we realize it or not, we all seek refuge.
Scripture: “…lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe.” (Psalm 61:2-3)
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If You Have Found It, Run to It!
The world might tell you that a spa, a fancy hotel or any other luxurious place is the “ultimate refuge.” Don’t make the mistake that I did. Don’t believe it. You already have an ultimate refuge in the Lord, and you can always run to it, even if you cannot run, because “the name of the Lord is a strong fortress; the godly run to him and are safe” (Proverbs 18:10). Running requires dedicated action in one direction; runners do not hesitate but quickly devote all their energy and efforts to their race. We must train ourselves to do the same as we run to God in every circumstance of our lives.
What does it mean to “run” to God? It means that we read the Bible to learn His will for our lives. It means that we communicate with Him, speaking to Him through prayers, confession, and praise. We set our “minds on things above, not on earthly things” and “take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ” (Colossians 3:2, 2 Corinthians 10:5).
Determine to run this way daily and help others run with you as you “Let the message about Christ completely fill your lives, while you use all your wisdom to teach and instruct each other. With thankful hearts, sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God” (Colossians 3:16). When we discipline ourselves to live this way, we not only find continual refuge but we begin living our daily lives differently because we no longer buy into the lie that protection and peace exist apart from God.
Scripture: “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.” (1 Corinthians 9:24)
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Real Refuge is Always Available
As we wholeheartedly submit ourselves to God’s authority and recognize His sovereignty through a lifestyle of worship, we find the solace we seek. Our circumstances may not have changed, but the peace of being lifted above them as we choose to trust in God gives us the shelter we desperately need. He is the real refuge, and He is always available to those who seek Him, no matter where you are or in what situation you find yourself (See Psalm 46:1-2).
Remembering that my real refuge is in God alone has freed me to enjoy the mini-vacations or activities in my life without the expectation that they will do what only God can do and be what only God can be. It is my hope that you will also recognize the refuge that is yours in Christ, and through Him your soul will truly prosper.
Scripture: “O my people, trust in him at all times. Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge.” (Psalm 62:8)
Andrea Herzer has spent 17 years enduring multiple illnesses, including Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) and Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, and is intimately acquainted with the hardships that accompany debilitating health issues. She writes devotionals for her Facebook Group and she is writing her first book, The Way Through Illness, to help others find the pathway to living an abundant life in the midst of pain and suffering.
Andrea lives in Texas with her remarkable husband, Mark.They have three nearly grown children, Carly, Sarah, and Zach. For interest in speaking engagements or her book, she can be reached here.
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Originally published Wednesday, 02 October 2019.