“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalms 46:1).
What is a “refuge”? One dictionary defines it like this: “a place, or sometimes a person, offering protection or safe shelter from something.” A refuge is a place of safety, a place where you run to when you’re threatened or afraid.
When fear and panic strikes, where do you run? What is your refuge? Who is your refuge? I want you to be really honest with yourself. Is God truly your refuge? When things come crashing in, is he really the very first place you turn? Or, is he the last resort when nothing else seems to be working?
Is your spouse a refuge? Is beer a refuge? Is medication a refuge? Is food a refuge? Are Twinkies a very present help in times of trouble?
I’ll be the first to admit it. For most of my life, God was not my refuge and strength during the storms of fear. I turned to many other things when faced with crippling anxiety. I relied on people to help calm me down. I would typically call someone, because that would force me to “get things under control”. Or, I would turn to alcohol at night to numb the confusing thoughts. In fact, I had many refuges–medication, television, intellect, money–all have been refuges in times of trouble.
What is the very first thing you do when fear strikes? That is your refuge and strength. And, if it’s not God, then it will surely fail you. Yes, it may provide temporary peace, but it will not provide that deep, soul peace that we really need.
God, on the other hand, is a “very present help in times of trouble”. How close is God? He’s in you. He is closer to you than you are. He’s not just present–he is VERY present. When fear strikes, we don’t have to run to God, because he is already in you through Christ.
“Russell,” you may say, “I’ve tried that, and I don’t have any peace. I don’t know how to turn to God when the fear strikes.”
This battle of fear takes place internally, not externally. It’s a war of the mind. So, battling this internal war with external things will never be successful. Rather, we must fight internally, within our soul.
When fear comes crashing in, the first thing you must do is turn to God. Call out to him in prayer. Pray for strength, courage and wisdom in how you should respond. Let God be your refuge and strength, your very present help in times of trouble.
The next thing you should do is nothing. That’s sounds strange, but let me explain. Fear, at this point, is telling you to do something. It’s telling you to get off the road, get out of the store, call someone, get help, run for your life. This irrational fear is barking its commands at you, and your mind is being bombarded with this onslaught of demands. Terry Wardle, in his book “Whispers of Love in Seasons of Fear”, sums it up best when he says, “Resist the urge to manage your pain.”
Let God be your refuge and strength. Let him be your very present help in times of trouble. Let him be your first choice, not your last resort.
Prayer: “Father, I’ve relied on many other refuges in the past. I’ve trusted in the things of this world to bring me peace, but today, I choose you. Be my refuge and strength in times of trouble. Give me the strength to do nothing. Give me the strength to wage this war in my mind. Together, we shall be victorious. Apart from you, Lord, I can do nothing. I ask these things in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.”