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My God is My Refuge

I parked in front of the all-too-familiar place, and willed myself to enter. Once again I was at the hospital, a place that represented great turmoil and sadness for me. I walked through the all-too-familiar lobby, past the receptionist, who always politely smiled at me, to the elevator, and pressed floor two again. The doors opened into the hallway that led to the ICU where I knew Mom waited for me. As I passed the nursing staff, they greeted me. (We were very familiar with each other because Mom had been in ICU most of the summer.) It was September. My hope was waning, but I had to press on.

“In this world you will have trouble.” These words spoken by Jesus are true and not so comforting. None of us wants sorrow, suffering, pain, or trials. We do not long for troubles even though God uses them to grow and purify our faith. Given the choice, humanly speaking, we would choose an easier route. But one way God has of refining and strengthening us is to turn up the heat—thus we have trials and suffering. How do we navigate the long and winding road of difficulty? By holding tightly to Jesus who also said, “Take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Throughout the Bible, God is seen as One who cares for and comforts His people in times of trouble and need. He is Maon (our Dwelling Place), Machseh (our Refuge), Magen (our Shield), Metsuda (Fortress), and Migdal-Oz (Strong-tower). These names for God capture the essence of the help available to us.

So much of what takes place during trials and suffering is visible and usually involves multiple people. You can put a name to it like cancer, prodigal child, infertility, marital strife or job loss. There are very measurable things that you and others can see. God is aware of and cares about these details and how they affect you. But the refining work that grows your faith is done in the secret places of the mind and heart, and is between you and God. It is often this wrestling of the soul that produces an abundance of fruit, if we allow it to. 

A verse that has been special to me during times of trial, and especially when Mom was so sick and nearing death, is Jeremiah 17:12, “A glorious throne set on high from the beginning is the place of our sanctuary.” God’s eternal throne on high is the strong-tower, and place of refuge where I was shielded from the many things threatening to pull me under. I would picture myself before God’s throne, asking God for help, guidance, and wisdom. I knew I didn’t have what it would take to go through this trial with my mom. Neither did I know how to balance the rest of my life when helping Mom filled my time. God was my refuge. I was in great need of His strength and mercy and help, which I found while being in His presence, either in prayer or by reading His Word. During the storms of life, when you feel like running away and hiding, run to Jesus and hide in Him. There you’ll find the refuge that you need.

After a six-year battle with cancer, my sweet mom did die and is in heaven. Now those days that were so hard and heart-wrenching spent with her in the hospital blur into memories that I cherish. I wrote this in my journal shortly after she died:

“Oh Father God, You have carried me for so long as I walked beside Mom in her illness and death. Oh God, Your presence has been real to me. Your love, so evident. Your peace and joy flood my heart. Thank you. You have blessed me beyond what I could think or imagine and have given me all that I needed to do all that You asked. I praise You!”

God proved to be all I needed as my faith was tested in ways I never imagined. I had to walk a path I didn’t want to walk. And it led to a place that I didn’t want to go. But because it was God’s will for me and He was with me, I was able to do it. And by trusting God to be my refuge and shield, my dwelling place, I was nourished and protected during this storm that threatened to capsize me. When I look back on this storm that buffeted my soul, if it weren’t for God and the shelter I found in Him, I do not know how I would have survived. He gave me physical help through people, but God gave me what no human could give, spiritual help for my soul.

He gave me:

Peace that passed all understanding (Philippians 4:4–7).

Calm instead of fear (Joshua 1:9).

His presence as I “walked through the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23).

Conviction and forgiveness, when I gave in to sinful thoughts and actions 
(Colossians 1–17).

Mercy that was new every morning (Lamentations 3:22–24).

Joy in the midst of trial (Psalm 92:1–4).

Strength in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

People to serve and encourage me. (2 Corinthians 1:3–7 and Ephesians 2:10).

Wisdom and guidance (James 1:2–5).

His steadfast love that never ceases (Psalm 100:5).

… and so much more.

This trial has increased my faith in God. He refined me in such a way that I know that even now in the day-to-day “little things” I need God the same way I needed Him then. I want to dwell in the sweet presence of my Strong-tower and Refuge. He truly is everything I need and He’ll be all you need too!