We need a Strong Escape from the harshness of this world. We need a Refuge.
I sit on my knees by the window, fighting the wave of panic that is inching up into my stomach (and, slow and steady, into my mind). A surge of nausea makes me swallow hard. I anxiously try to breathe steady, repeating the mantra to myself that you are okay. You are not going to die. It’s just in your head.
I call my mom and ask her to come. She’d seen it the other day, that bulge in my throat at every swallow. That hormonal gateway swung out too wide. She’d asked me to swallow and then nodded somber, knowing.
I think back to when we first found out, years back now, that the growing in my throat was a thyroid gone wild. The yearlong depression, gray day after gray day, the rainiest drought I’ve ever known. I had felt a little like King Saul, tuning out my demons with songs because my own thoughts were too much to handle.
So the recurring surge of panic takes me by surprise, because this stage is done, right? But I am weak of both body and soul in this life, and the reminders are gifts, however they come. I need God. I am a desperate case without Him.
The pain of the panic drives my soul to my Refuge, my Strong Escape. It reminds me of my frailty, my humanity, my weakness. And in those bleak truths, it reminds me of how sufficient He is. How filling He is. And we know in the deepness of the soul that any filler but Him is a bold-faced liar.
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’”
“How great is Your goodness, which You have stored up for those who fear You, which You bestow in the sight of men on those who take refuge in You.”
David uses this word “refuge” repeatedly in his Psalms. He stakes it like a flag in enemy territory; he brandishes it like a victory amid dark days. He claims it repeatedly. He reminds himself—and us—that those who hold up in Him find the great and filling blessings. What blessing is more precious than being close to God Himself?
God is a safe place for the deeply broken. Honestly—He’s the only place.
Those who have experienced sickness, pain, loss, depression, weakness, know that being strong is not enough. There is a God sized gap looming between our effort and His glory. Only Jesus can fill that. And we weak ones know beyond a shadow that the darkness of our pain points us full face to the light of His Truth.
Maybe that’s the encouragement of the words spoken to the pained and captive people—that the depth of truth reaches the depth of brokenness:
“Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him.’ The LORD is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him. It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD” Lamentations 3:22-26 (emphasis added).
So we praise You for the reminders, Lord, the ones that drive us to our Strong Escape.