Friday, July 24, 2020

Psalm 57: A Refuge in the Storm

Psalm 57:1–2 (ESV)

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.

The words of Psalm 57, which David wrote when he fled from Saul, have brought great comfort to me over these past few months as we have walked through these crazy months of 2020. The year began with a flurry of activity preparing for our son’s wedding at the end of March. We got everything done, and in mid-February hopped on a plane bound for Southeast Asia. A couple of people asked if we were concerned about that virus in China. “Nay, we’ll be a long way from China.” We had a wonderful trip, but as we started home, the situation was heating up. Korea now had cases of this new virus, and we had to travel through Korea. This far off problem suddenly hit home.

After we arrived home, I became consumed with worry, not so much that I myself would get sick, but two fears plagued me. What if we became sick and started the coronavirus outbreak in Washington, IL, and what if we became sick and had to quarantine and miss our son’s wedding? Instead of sleeping, I tossed and turned. I lost weight. We watched our son struggle to decide whether to travel home from Asia. We watched our son and his fiancée’s wedding plans fall apart. I racked my brain trying to find a way to make everything turn out all right.

But I couldn’t make everything turn out the way I wanted. All of our older kids were significantly impacted by the chaos and uncertainty that Covid-19 brought. And we sat helplessly by. I cried bottles of tears, tears for my family, and tears over my own losses, losses I could never get back. I worried and fretted over all the unknowns of the future. I dreaded the weird, unfamiliar experience of going to the store. I cried the day I broke down and ordered masks for our family. I didn’t want to admit that this strange way of life was going to be around for a while. And in the midst of this, all the rest of life’s responsibilities continued. At times it seemed like pressures from every area of life threatened to crush me.

And in the midst of this, the Lord spoke to me through Psalm 57. “Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful.” How I needed His mercy! I was in desperate need. My world was in chaos, and my heart was even more turbulent. I knew I did not have the resources to ride out this storm on my own. The attribute of mercy implies a heart that looks with compassion on those in need and desires to relieve their misery. It also implies resources adequate to meet the need. My God is the perfect one to run to when I need mercy. He is merciful. He has shown me mercy in Christ and continues to pour out His grace and mercy on me in the midst of life’s troubles.

“For in you, my soul takes refuge” I have had to learn this lesson over and over. I seek refuge so many ways before I finally turn to the One who is the only real refuge. I realized again that my favorite refuge is my own ability to solve problems and control my life. When I can’t figure it out, my mind spins with anxious thoughts, and my heart fills with despair. “In the shadow of your wings, I will take refuge.” Just like David, I had to give up trust in myself and decide “I will take refuge in my God.” And what beautiful imagery David uses. Every time I read it, I think of Jesus’s comforting, inviting words, “How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings.” That is my Savior’s heart, to offer refuge to his suffering people, even when we cause much of our own suffering by our sinful choices and self-reliant ways. And I can keep on trusting my Savior and God. His steadfast love and faithfulness to me will continue. That gives me hope because I know that the storms won’t be completely over in this life. They simply ebb and flow and change. Even as the chaos from the pandemic begins to ease, new challenges tempt me too restless nights and anxious thoughts. Daily, moment by moment, I have to keep seeking refuge “until the storms of destruction pass by.”

Even in the fiercest storms, I have hope because “I cry out to God Most High” My God is the Ruler overall. He is the One who created the heavens and the earth. Nothing is too difficult for Him. I am crying out to “God, who fulfills his purpose for me.” I know that no matter what happens, even when my life makes no sense to me, even when I am not faithful to Him, God is fulfilling his purpose for me, and his purposes cannot be thwarted. Pandemics, and difficulties, and even my own actions cannot derail God’s plan for my life or for the lives of those I love.

Near the end of Psalm 57 David says, “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast.” I cannot say that yet. My heart is often storm-tossed and wobbly and waffling and inconsistent, but my heart is changing. It is becoming more steadfast. The key is, like David, to keep my eyes fixed, not on the swirling storms around me or on the raging storms inside me, but to keep my eyes fixed on the One who calms the storms with His great power and says to my stormy heart, “Peace, be still.”

Kim Anderson

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