Our family recently attended the graduation ceremony for our oldest son, Jonathan. Excitement was high and the outdoor stadium was beautiful, but warm. Gradually, the clouds cleared, and the sun’s intensity increased. Soon there was no escape from the heat. Some moved under trees, some shielded their faces, and a few brought out umbrellas. I noticed one person with a clear umbrella and was curious... it offered no protection from the sun or heat; it produced no shadow. How long would they sit beneath it?
How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
Eventually, the person moved and the umbrella disappeared. I later reflected on how I seek refuge from the heat in my life. My circumstances and situations often seem intense and relentless: work, anxiety, suffering, expectations, demands on my time. While I know the Lord is my refuge, I frequently turn away to things that cannot provide it. Entertainment, pleasure, escape, approval, peace, rest, and even donuts are some of mine. They offer something close to refuge, but they don’t deliver. Yet I return to them in hope of a different result, misled by the belief that if I could get “more” (especially donuts) I could find real relief.
Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord.
He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green...
Upon further reflection, I was able to admit that sometimes His provision doesn’t seem to be much of a refuge. His Word can seem shallow and disconnected. Songs and psalms can feel mechanical. Prayer can become repetitive. Christian fellowship can feel superficial. Sermons can seem distant. Instead of “refuge in the shadow of your wings” or a tree that “does not fear when heat comes,” sometimes it feels a lot more like I’m standing in the relentless heat with a clear umbrella.
Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
But the Lord offers real hope that is infinitely bigger than this, and He doesn’t abandon or condemn me for such thoughts or feelings. Rather, He takes hold of me. The Lord calls me near - to abide in him, and to wait on him. When I realize he is close, the shadow of his wings becomes a refuge. When, through faith, I trust in him, I begin to taste the living waters he has been providing. I hear him whispering from remarkably close when I worship him during sermons. He calls me near as I pray with others and pursue authentic and robust (often uncomfortable) gospel community. He draws me to himself through passages in His Word that touch my heart, with songs and psalms that speak to my soul. He draws me near.