“1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
If I say that I’m dwelling in the shelter of the Most High, then what does that mean? Well, from the end of verse 2 it means that I am trusting God. The psalmist says, “I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’”
God is my refuge and fortress, when I trust him. Now a refuge or fortress is a shelter that protects a person and keeps them safe from harm. In the Old Testament, God commanded Moses to set up cities of refuge where an offender could flee to without fear of retribution (Numbers 35:9-15). The city of refuge served as a safe place where a person could be at peace knowing that he was protected until he was brought before the congregation for judgment.
Like a city of refuge, God is our refuge, our safe place, when we trust Him. However, when we don’t trust him, when we don’t confidently expect him to be true to his word and all that he is, then God isn’t our refuge. Something else is.
How do you know you’re trusting in something or someone other than God? For myself, I am able to recognize when I have fled into a fortress other than God by simply seeing how I react to things.
This past week, my oldest daughter left to study abroad in a Latin American country and will not return until December. Since she left, I’ve experienced a variety of fears and anxieties that I normally don’t experience. Why am I anxious and fearful? Well, after asking the Lord to search my heart, it’s basically because I’m not in control and I can’t readily get to her. My refuge before was based on her proximity and my ability to easily help her in time of need. Well, that refuge is gone now and so what or in whom do I place my trust now? Before I honestly thought I trusted God with the wellbeing of my daughter but I see now that I was really trusting in my perceived control and ability to help.
Anxiety, fear, irritability, sleeplessness, nervousness, despair, outbursts of anger, addictive behaviors, escapism into TV series, video games or fantasy games, stress related physical ailments, and more, are all reactions to life that are not simply responses to difficulties but they are responses to our refuge being broken down. When the walls of our fortresses begin to fall, then all these reactions and more within us begin to manifest themselves.
My hope and prayer is that we don’t simply seek to pray to God to alleviate the anxieties or despair or escapist behaviors, but instead we go deeper and ask the Father to reveal to us what refuge or fortresses we are trusting in other than him. For eternal peace will only come when we are able to say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust!”