What does it mean when the psalmist tells us that God is our refuge, and how do we experience this? In Psalm 46, we see that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (46:1). Referring to the city of Jerusalem, the psalmist says that “God is in the midst of her” (46:5). Then, two more times he repeats the phrase, “The LORD of hosts is with us” (46:7,11).
The Hebrew word “refuge” is machaceh, and is used 20 times in the Old Testament, predominantly referring to God. It is a noun and describes a shelter, the place one runs to from the rain, storm, or danger. The verb form is chacah, meaning to seek refuge or flee for protection. It’s translated “trust” 35 out of the 37 times it’s used in the Old Testament.
We can only experience God as our refuge in times of trouble when we trust Him in those times. To doubt His goodness and His sovereignty, or question His purposes, is like choosing to stand outside in the rain or storm when a perfectly good shelter is available. Quite foolish, don’t you think?
How do we trust God? The psalmist gives us three things to do to experience the strength and security of God as our very present refuge.
#1 – Do not fear.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Selah. (Psalm 46:2-3)
No matter what you see happening around you, do not be afraid. Face it with confidence, knowing that nothing can happen to you that God does not sovereignly allow. Trust His protection. Trust His goodness. Trust His wisdom. Trust that He is still in control.
#2 – Remember what He’s already done.
The nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered; He raised His voice, the earth melted. Come behold the works of the Lord, who has wrought desolations in the earth. (Psalm 46:6,8)
This is not God’s first rodeo! Look at history, both the “big picture” of the world and mankind’s history and your own personal history. God raises up kings. Nations come and go. God has been working out His purposes and plans in the lives of men and women since the Garden of Eden. What have you seen Him do in your own life? How many prayers has He answered? How many circumstances has He already used to grow and discipline and teach and shape you into His image? He’s proven Himself faithful and trustworthy.
#3 – Be still and watch what He’s doing.
He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariots with fire. Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. (Psalm 46:9-10)
The psalmist switches to the present tense to remind us that God is actively working and that if we’ll just be still, we will see it and experience His presence. It is learning to live in the eye of the storm, where it’s strangely quiet, knowing that just outside the storm rages on but at this moment, in this place, we are safe. Trusting that God is at work all around us allows us to experience Him as the shelter and refuge He has declared Himself to be.
Set aside your fears. Look back at what He’s done. Be intentional about noticing what He’s doing. Trust God. He is your refuge and strength.