In the gospel of Luke, chapter 15, Jesus tells of three lost things—a sheep, a coin, and a boy. Apparently, the Savior wanted to make a point about the terror of being misplaced and the sheer joy of being found.
Recently, I hosted an event with about two hundred good friends and other folks from our community, including children. Somehow in the chaos, the daughter of one of my friends got separated from her mom. When the young girl saw me, she ran toward me, tears rolling down her anxious face. Through sobs, she explained that she couldn’t find her mother.
I gently asked her if she’d like to stay with me until we found her mother. Looking up into my face and gripping my hand as tightly as she could, she nodded an anxious yes. Not a minute later, her mom came up and scooped her daughter into her arms. Her mom was never far; as a matter of fact, she was only a few feet away. The little lost girl simply couldn’t see her.
You and I can relate to this little girl. There have been moments when the cares of our hearts, sorrows, and burdens have caused us to wonder where God is. We’ve felt lost and alone. Abandoned. And like this tearful child, we might go searching for help in other places. This girl found a good and safe place—a friend to comfort her. But that friend was no replacement for the real thing. She needed her mother.
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1). Some translations say God is an ever-present help. What this means is that God isn’t sort-of present, halfway present, distracted, or distant. He is an ever-present help. God is with us in our lost-ness and trouble. God is always there.
Over the years, I have noticed something about fear, sorrow, and trouble. If I’m not vigilant to speak the truth found in Psalm 46 to my heart and mind, trials have the potential to cloud my vision. If I’m worried and anxious, I may be kept from remembering where my help comes from.
Like the little girl, I can anxiously search and wander around, forgetting that my Help is right there beside me. Of course, God isn’t physically present. We can’t touch Him or hold His hand. But He is there just the same, guiding our steps and counseling our hearts according to truth if we’ll listen.
We may even place our trust and hope in things that will not protect and comfort us. So, what are you running to? Who or what is your refuge? You might run to food as your comfort. Or cling to a substance such as alcohol. Or it might be entertainment that you hope will drown out your sorrows. In the end, these things will leave us empty and longing. And in many cases, emptier and longing more deeply than we were at the beginning of our search.
You may say that you take refuge in your friends. To be sure, friends are a gift from the Lord, and each of us ought to pray for safe, reliable, godly friends. Friends encourage and comfort, and the best of them speak the truth in love to us. But friends, as precious as they are, are not a substitute for God, our good and faithful Shepherd. Though they may try, friends cannot carry the full weight of our burdens. They cannot keep us secure. And even the most reliable friend cannot be there at all times. They are a gift from God but a wholly inadequate substitute for Him.
Faith to Believe
While struggling and sorrowful, more times than I’d like to admit, the security of my heavenly Father isn’t always the first place I run. I might run to a friend or to my husband. I wish that weren’t true, but it is.
It’s taken some practice to begin to run to the right place. And I imagine I’m not alone. My hope for you and me is that we train ourselves to remember the Lord who is our true refuge and hope. But this training of our minds takes something outside ourselves—it takes supernatural faith.
It takes the same faith to believe that God is the God of salvation to also believe God is sovereign, omnipotent, good, and eager to be our refuge. Of course, our problem with running to the wrong places is a faith problem. There are times we must confess and call out to God like the father crying out to Jesus, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). God is our refuge. There is no substitute for the Almighty in our trouble.
You and I are going to get this wrong again and again. We are going to turn to inadequate things to give us security in our anxious thoughts. We are going to be tempted to lean on our own understanding. We have a battle with sin. But, God, being rich in mercy, has given us a way of escape through His Son. And God doesn’t condemn us for our weakness; instead, He invites us to come to Him.
So, in response to His kind invitation, I will resolve to run first to my Father who invites me to do so, in my weakness, in my time of need, in my sorrows. Would you resolve to do the same?
God is our refuge; He is our strength.
Editor’s Note: This post was first published on June 6, 2018.