There is this song I remember singing in choir. It had a great harmony and I loved the liturgical chanting beat. It was based off of Psalm 46…and before we go any further, allow me to answer that burning question in your mind. Yes, I was a choir nerd. I know, I know. It takes away any chance at ‘coolness’ I had, but it’s the truth, I was a choir nerd. I still hate that I didn’t get to be in chamber choir with my friends…but not everyone has a voice good enough to be THAT nerdy.
The lyrics of the song were confusing to me, because at that point in my life I wasn’t quite sure how this ‘God’ I couldn’t see, didn’t hear and certainly wasn’t ready to trust could possibly be a refuge and strength in trouble.
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth gives way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” [Psalm 46:1]
Honestly, at that point in my life, I definitely didn’t understand why I would need a refuge or strength in my life. Nothing hard had really touched me at that point, and I was in those blissful teen and college years of believing I was invincible. I was also stubborn and thought I really could tame the world by taking it head on. I was definitely not going to ask anyone for help, even if I did come across something tough, and I certainly did not need help from an abstract idea of God because I had enough strength in me to do it all.
Go ahead, chuckle. I know…I had a lot to learn, and still do. We are all in different stages in this walk with Jesus the Redeemer.
But in order to know the need for a refuge, to understand why scripture talks about refuge, we really have to know that desperate, gasping for oxygen need for escape, protection and sanctuary in our own lives. And that doesn’t come without extreme pain and your world being turned inside-out while spinning end over end.
We can fake it all we want and we can deny it all we want, but there really is something innate in us that longs to be protected and to find that place of refuge when we need it. Truly, the Holy Spirit makes that real and there are a million ways to feel that presence, but it all coincides with our willingness to surrender and merge our heart with God’s heart.
Tonight, as I write this, I think of the disciples in those days between their teacher’s death on the cross and his resurrection. They didn’t know the resurrection was coming. Their world really was turned upside down. The man they thought would finally bring freedom to Israel was dead. What a crazy emotional roller coaster they were riding! They were scared, mourning and they retreated to a place of sanctuary believing if their teacher could be put to death on the cross…they would be next, so they made sure to lock the door.
But after Jesus rose, and breathed the Holy Spirit on them, there was this contagious confidence in their belief and propulsion into the world. God’s Spirit in them made them unstoppable. They took the message out further than anyone probably thought they could. They told stories. They healed people. They spoke truth. They built communities of believers. All done with the power of the Holy Spirit, and the power of God’s story from the beginning of time that perfectly predicted every move Jesus made.
Most of the time we think of a refuge as being a physical place, but the safety and security of place is not always available.
What would happen if we started seeking refuge in the Holy Spirit?
The Spirit doesn’t always have to be a place of strength, more often the Spirit functions on weakness and surrender. We cannot technically curl up in the physical safety of the Holy Spirit, but the Spirit protects something more beautiful than our physical well-being. The Spirit claims and protects our souls, and the refuge we find there is invincible.