When you hear the word refugee what do you think of? Unfortunately because of media coverage we can often associate the word negatively, and may think of people who are taking stuff that doesn’t belong to them. When actually a refugee is someone who has been forced to leave their home due to war, or persecution. A refugee is someone who is seeking a safe place, seeking refuge. No one would choose to be in that position, it is often a last resort, and often leads to the possibility of being separated from comfort, and possibly those who you love.
This week we look at our final definition of God as part of our series looking at ‘who we worship’ and we are looking at ‘God our refuge’. So what does this mean? A refugee is a person looking for a place of safety, a refuge is a place of safety. That is what God is for us, he is our place of refuge. Isaac Watts wrote some words describing God and they say
‘O God our help in ages past, our hope for years to come, our shelter from the storms that blast and our eternal home’
These words always remind me of when we used to visit lighthouses and lifeboats when we were on holiday! But I think Isaac Watts has got it just right, he is able to say that God is our shelter and our hope, because he recognises that God has helped in the past. Psalm 9 says:
The LORD reigns for ever;
he has established his throne for judgment.
He rules the world in righteousness
and judges the peoples with equity.
The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
1Those who know your name trust in you,
for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.
So often people make the assumption that a belief in God means that everything is going to be hunky dory, and take misfortune as a reason not to believe in God, yet that isn’t what this psalm, the words from Isaac Watts or the faith of Christianity teaches at all. It is important to recognise that there are going to be storms, there will be difficulties, but in those times we can seek comfort and strength from the God who reigns forever.
When we return after half term it will be the season of lent, and we will be starting to prepare for the death and resurrection of Jesus. Within the Church of England calendar there are seasons, represented by different colours (Lent will be purple) although this can seem troublesome it is also reflective of life. Throughout our life we will have times when we can do nothing but worship God for all he has done for us, but there will be other times when we can do nothing but question, or cry out. Both of these are fine. The important thing is that we remember that God is always there. I have just been listening to the book of Job, and he really experiences some fantastic things and some truly horrible things. During the fantastic things he praises God, during the horrible he acknowledges what God has done for him, cries out for help, and looks to the hope of his future life with God and the future good that he has faith will come.
In the same way that becoming a refugee is a last resort for any person, to automatically think of God as our refuge will probably also be a last resort, there are so many other characteristics we would possibly prefer to focus on, and yet how great it is to know that when the storms of life come, which they will, we know that we have a person and a place of comfort. We don’t need to fight the storm by ourself, and we don’t need to run away from our God. We just need to acknowledge that God is there, take our problems to him, remember what He has done for us in the past, and cling on to our hope of a future life of blessings with him. It is also important at this point that we remember that the Church is a community of believers in that God. They are also part of that refuge, and can provide the strength and courage for us, when we can’t find it for ourselves.
There are so many examples throughout the Bible where heroes of the faith turn to God as their refuge. I’ve already mentioned Job, but there was also David, Moses, Abraham, Paul in the New Testament and, of course, Jesus himself, who would often seek refuge in God. When he was tempted in the wilderness, he would turn to the scripture to remind him of God the father. For Jesus it was the scripture and his relationship with God the father that he turned to for refuge… I will often turn to certain verses, but mainly my community of friends, when you’re facing the storm what is it that you do to remind yourself that God is your refuge?
Prayer: Father God we thank you for the examples of heroes of the faith who have been very human and have faced trials, tribulations and storms. We thank you for these because we can learn from the examples of how they responded, and how they sought refuge in you. May we, as your disciples, seek refuge in you, but also guide others towards you when they are struggling. Amen
Challenge: read the story of Jesus in the wilderness and how he responded using scripture. Find scriptures that help support you, and if you know anyone going through a trial at the moment then try to support them as well.