In what way is God our refuge?
A refuge is a place of safety and shelter wherein we are protected from danger and distress. One illustration of a refuge is that of a shelter in which we take cover during a storm. In Old Testament times, a cleft in the rocks or cave was a good refuge. In modern times, we have sophisticated underground bunkers to protect ourselves. A good refuge provides protection for the vulnerable and peace for the distressed. That is exactly the kind of refuge that God is to those who trust in Him and His Son, Jesus Christ.
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God is a refuge to His children in that He protects them. There are approximately 45 references to God as refuge in the book of Psalms alone. Needless to say, the fact that God protects His own is a truth He wants us to know and be comforted by. However, the fact that God is our refuge does not mean that no danger will threaten and no harm will befall a believer. We can appreciate that truth by examining the life of the faithful throughout history (Hebrews 11:36–38), including the apostle Paul himself (2 Corinthians 11:23–27). God tells us through His Word that all who seek to live a godly life in Jesus Christ will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12). At the same time, we are comforted by the fact that whatever danger or harm comes upon us is under the sovereign control of God (Job 1:12; Matthew 10:29–31). He will not allow us to be tempted or tested beyond what we can endure through Christ who strengthens us (1 Corinthians 10:13; Philippians 4:13). In fact, God uses the trials and temptations of this life to build our character and bring us to spiritual maturity (James 1:2–4).
God works all things together for the ultimate good of the believer. That ultimate good is our conformity to the image of Christ and eternal life with God (Romans 8:28–30; Revelation 21:3). Even death itself is gain for the believer as it ushers him or her directly and immediately into the presence of Christ (Luke 23:43; Philippians 1:21–23; 2 Corinthians 5:8). Jesus has removed the sting of death through His sacrificial death and victorious resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:55–57). God has promised that we who believe in Jesus will be resurrected and receive a body like Jesus' resurrected body (Philippians 3:20–21). It is the promise of God's protection of our souls and resurrection of our bodies that enables us to trust in Him no matter what dangers threaten. Those who have received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior need not fear anything. Although men may kill the believer's body, God will protect our souls (Matthew 10:28) and give us new imperishable bodies (1 Corinthians 15:53–54). Paul famously declares confidence and security in God's insurmountable love in Romans 8:31–39.
One way we see God's protection is in the way He protects us from Satan's schemes. Jesus prayed, "I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one" (John 17:15). Certainly God does allow Satan to attack and we are engaged in spiritual warfare during our time on this earth, but God has equipped us with spiritual armor (Ephesians 6:10–18). He is victorious and He will never abandon us. We can trust in His promises and seek to "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you" (James 4:7). We trust that God is in control and, as stated above, will work all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).
God is also a refuge in that He protects us from our own sinful natures. By the work of the Holy Spirit, God sanctifies our hearts and makes us more and more like Christ. Jesus instructed His disciples to ask God to "lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil" (Matthew 6:13). Paul said, "And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6). Ephesians 1:13–14 and 2 Corinthians 1:21–22 talk about the Holy Spirit sealing us. We are firmly established in Christ and secure in Him. Our salvation is guaranteed by Him, and He is also faithful to work in our lives to remove the power sin has over us. He sets us free from bondage to sin and binds us to Himself and His righteousness (Romans 6:16–23; Galatians 5:1).
God is a refuge for His children in that He brings them peace (Luke 2:14). Just as Jesus was so at peace during the frightful storm at sea that He could sleep undisturbed, so too can we be at peace amidst the storms of life (Matthew 8:24–26). How? By trusting in God as our refuge and by keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2). Peter was able to walk on water as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus, but the moment he turned to view the wind and waves, Peter began to sink (Matthew 14:29–33). It is by staying our minds on Jesus that God keeps us in perfect peace (Isaiah 26:3). God promises peace that surpasses understanding and peace that guards hearts and minds to all who present their prayers and petitions to Him through Jesus Christ (Philippians 4:7).
Perhaps the psalmist said it best when he said, "The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold" (Psalm 18:2).
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