Over these last few months, Psalm 57 has comforted and challenged me. It has challenged me to think more specifically about the phrase, “for in you my soul takes refuge.” That is a common idea in Scripture, but as I have struggled to respond in a biblical way to life circumstances, I began to wonder, “What does it look like in my life in a very practical way to take refuge in God? And how can I help others understand in a very tangible way what this entails?” Here are a few thoughts to consider about what it means to take refuge in God.
Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
for in you my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
till the storms of destruction pass by.
I cry out to God Most High,
to God who fulfills his purpose for me
Psalm 57:1–2 (ESV)
Turn toward God
First, taking refuge in God means that we turn toward Him. It means turning from false refuges —all the familiar, self-reliant ways that we seek to solve or escape from life’s problems. We must repent of such things as control, perfection, manipulation, withdrawal, anger, rumination, and escaping. Instead, we cry out to God. In our distress, we need to talk to God. We need to pour out our hearts to Him (Psalm 57:2a). We need to talk to Him about the situation and how we are responding. We need to confess sinful responses. We need to share openly with Him about our concerns and fears. He already knows, but our souls need to talk to Him. We need to cry out for mercy.
Remind Ourselves of God’s Character
Secondly, taking refuge in God means actively reminding ourselves of God’s unchanging character. It means reviewing the truths we know about God, especially the ones that give us hope in the specific situation. Are we feeling unloved? He is the one who loves with steadfast love. Have others betrayed us? His faithfulness endures for all generations. Do we feel afraid and out of control? He is the sovereign, all-powerful Creator. Nothing is too difficult for Him. God’s Word gives us many different images to help us understand God and trust Him more fully. Search the Scriptures for these images. Which ones are most helpful for you? Personally, I return over and over to two images: God, the everlasting Rock, who is stable amid my instability (Psalm 18:1, 31), and God, the caring, guarding, ever-present Shepherd (Psalm 23, Isaiah 40:10-11).
Review the Promises of God
Thirdly, we must purposefully review the promises of God. God is faithful. He cannot lie. He will keep every promise He has made. Which of God’s promises are most encouraging for this specific situation? He will never leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:8). He will help His people (Isaiah 41:10). He forgives sin completely (Psalm 103:11-12, 1 John 1:8-10). The Lord promises to be near to the broken-hearted (Psalm 34:18), and to give strength to the weary (Isaiah 40:29). We need to review these rich promises often. Amid suffering, other voices sometimes seem louder than the voice of God. We forget that God is speaking a personal word to us through the words of the Bible. We must choose to believe that these specific promises apply to us in our specific circumstances.
Recognize Our Dependence on God
Next, taking refuge in God means that we recognize our dependence on Him. We naturally tend to be self-reliant but suffering strips away illusions of power and control. In 2 Chronicles 20:12, Jehoshaphat expressed his dependence on God, “For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” Like Jehoshaphat, we too find ourselves in situations where we are powerless and don’t know what to do. We too must depend on God. During suffering, our need for wisdom becomes clear. We don’t know how to respond to difficult people or circumstances in a way that glorifies God. We need to seek wisdom from the Word. He promises to generously supply (James 1:5). Suffering also leaves us feeling weak and helpless. We must also depend on God to supply strength. In our own strength, we cannot glorify Him. We are powerless against the physical dangers of this life, against the strategies of Satan, and against the sinful tendencies of our own hearts. But God has promised us that His grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in us (Ephesians 1:20). As we commit to depending on His wisdom and His strength, we will find refuge.
Use the Resources God Has Given
Taking refuge in God also means that we use the resources that God has given us: the Word, prayer, and the local church. We cling to the Lord through His Word and prayer, but we are not created to walk through life on our own. When God saved us, he placed us in the body of Christ. We are to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). When we experience deep sorrow, we call out to God, but we also reach out to brothers and sisters in Christ who can sit beside us, weep with us, and pray for us. When we have physical needs beyond our resources, we humbly make our needs known to the body of Christ. We seek wisdom from those more spiritually mature than us. One of the main ways that God shows his love and care to His people is through His people. Our own pride, with its desire for autonomy, strength, and self-sufficiency, often hinders us from using one of the greatest resources God has provided for His people—the church.
Finally, taking refuge in the Lord means that we meekly submit to His work in our lives (1 Peter 5:6-7). One of our biggest hindrances to trusting God is simply that often we are afraid that He will not give us everything we want. Sometimes we fear that the Lord might not give us the exact kind of help that we think is best. We don’t want to endure. We want instant relief. God, however, is doing eternal things. One of God’s gospel purposes for trials is to refine us and make us more like Christ. We are often blind to our sin, and God uses the pressures of suffering to expose our hearts (Deuteronomy 8:2). Suffering becomes an opportunity to ask ourselves, “Where is my thinking unbiblical? What selfish desires drive my behavior? What has become more important to me than God Himself?
The refining fire of affliction is painful (Isaiah 48:10), but we can trust Him and the outcome of the particularly designed affliction (Romans 8:28-29). We can humbly admit that God is wiser than we are and that, as the perfect Father, He truly does know what is best for us. He will fulfill His purpose for us. In the raging storm, we can safely take refuge under His wings until the storms of destruction pass by.