At first glance, a lot of the Psalms don’t apply to my life right now. So many Psalms are about a person who is in trouble. Someone is depressed, or being overtaken by enemies, or running away from trouble, and crying out to the Lord in search of rescue and relief.
My life? It doesn’t reflect this kind of anguish. Sure, there have been some difficult transitions in the last few months. But nothing close to persecution or seemingly insurmountable barriers reflected in many verses of the Psalms.
These differences might tempt me to pass over Psalm 31 and move on to Psalm 32. After all, I wouldn’t say, “my strength fails because of my affliction” (Psalm 31:10) or “I am the utter contempt of my neighbors” (Psalm 31:11) or “I am forgotten as though I were dead” (Psalm 31:12).
But then I look at what David is doing with those feelings. And there, I see a lesson I need to learn.
David looks to God to be his refuge.
When I need refuge, I often don’t run to God first. I seek protection against how people might perceive me by running towards clothes and make up. I retreat from the quiet boredom of loneliness by running towards social media. I shelter myself from self-doubt by running towards achievement at work.
I shelter and protect myself in all sorts of places besides the arms of my God.
Psalm 31 convicts me when it begins with the cry,
“In you, Lord, I have taken refuge” – Psalm 31:1
And expands on that with
“Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me.” – Psalm 31:2
In Hebrew, “be my rock of refuge” is literally, “become for me a rocky summit of refuge.”
That language reminds me of when I travelled to Machu Picchu. I cannot imagine the number of people who died building that rocky city on the top of a mountain. But the people thought it was worth the effort. Because there, at the top of the mountain, they were protected. The rocks provided them shelter from storms that might brew overhead. The mountaintop provided them the safety of the high place, a view of their enemies as they approached.
I wonder what it would look like if I ran to God as my rock of refuge. Not just when the big trials came, but all the time. What if I lived there, in God’s rocky city at the top of the hill.
Perhaps if my identity took refuge in who I am as God’s child, then I could see the enemy of comparison as it made its way on the path to my heart.
Perhaps if my longings found their shelter in God, then I could be protected from the effect of consumerism as it rained down its stuff into my life.
Perhaps if I ran to God as the refuge of my soul, then I could live with a sense of security and peace greater than what I feel now. And then maybe when the bigger enemies do come, and I feel the anguish of this Psalm, my journey to find refuge in the hands of God would only be an arm's length away.
Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me. Keep me free from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge. Into your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, Lord, my faithful God. Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord. – Psalm 31:3-5, 24
What could it look like for you if you made God your rock of refuge?
Walk through the Psalms is a series reflecting on the beautiful and timeless poetry found in the middle of the Bible. It is an intentional study of God’s Word, grounded in the belief that God gave us the Bible so we could meditate on it, whether that takes us through inspiring or frustrating territory.