There is a popular theme in children’s movies of going to the circus or carnival during the conflict of the story. It’s as if to say, “Everything’s wrong in your young life, so go to the carnival. There you will find joy in the lights, music, and sugar. In that joy you will find refuge from your real life.” Sometimes they do find a solution with a song and a dance, but more often than not they find more trouble. Trouble that is darker than what they were running from.

Isn’t that true in life? Life hurts, and it can be difficult to process the hurts that come along so we run to the carnival. Whether that carnival takes the shape of a party scene, dating scene, shopping, eating, music, TV, the infinite possibilities of online, even obsessive self-improvement. We all have our own “carnival” that we run to when the sun sets in our life. At first it feels like we found the song and dance that made everything better. Inevitably time reveals the dark influences laced within our carnival.

At first we think it would be better to be lost in a frenzy of noise and sensation. Is it really better to be lost though? Then you’re just lost. I think that is one of the reasons God is found in the quiet. Silence can be uncomfortable after prolonged exposure to clamor. Once past that discomfort, the Holy Spirit can show us the way home.

“My soul, wait for God silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be moved. In God is my salvation and my glory; the rock of my strength, and me refuge is in God. Trust in Him at all times you people; pour out your hearts before Him; God is a refuge for us.” (Ps. 62:5-8 NKJV)

Here is the door out of the false refuge of the “carnival” and into the true refuge of God. To quiet our souls and stay there unmoved until the Holy Spirit reveals the salvation we have in God. Until we see His glory and find that He is the rock we’re standing on. Because God is trustworthy we can trust Him with what’s in our hearts and we can pour it out before Him. “My refuge is in God.”

Why hide in a crowd when we can stand alone in plain view of our loving Father in Heaven? He who will take our hand and walk with us through the night until the sun again rises in our lives.

Sometimes I read passages like this one in Psalm 62 and insert my own wish on what it means to find refuge in God. I find myself reading that and thinking: Refuge in the Almighty God = All trouble disappears. But that’s not what it means to take refuge.

When has the act of taking refuge from weather ever made it stop raining? Or finding refuge in an inn ever made the night day again the moment the door closed? A refuge is somewhere to go until the storm has passed, until the dawn has come. It is means of going through these tricky bits of life while remaining intact.

According to Merriman-Webster refuge means, “Shelter or protection from danger or distress; a place that provides shelter or protection; something to which someone has recourse in difficulty.” Nowhere does it say “Refuge = trouble disappears.” God created refuge and He generally isn’t going to change what a refuge is for our convenience. He offers to be our refuge, not the ultimate escape-maker.

Sometimes I wonder if my wishing refuge meant something else actually causes me to reject the true refuge God offers me. Like God finds me standing in the rain and offers shelter. Only for me to say, “No thanks, I’m waiting for a rain-stopper. He’ll be here any minute.” God shrugs and stands there, The Refuge. While I stand beside him in the rain, waiting for something He never promised.

I’m not saying we can’t pray about the hard or painful things in life. I’m saying it’s a bummer to miss what He’s already promised, and offers even now, just because it’s not what we’re praying for. We can take refuge in God and pray for the rain to stop. In the meantime, isn’t it better to be dry than to be standing in the rain?

Even with life swirling around and plans going awry, we can find the blessed silence and in the quiet find refuge. We can meet with God and remember His great love before re-entering the swirl. We can leave the carnivals of life and the extra trouble they often bring behind as we press on hand in hand with God, our rock, our salvation, our refuge.

-Etta Woods


Merriman-Webster Dictionary Online

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