Dear Refuge of My Weary Soul

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God is a safe place to hide,

    ready to help when we need him.

We stand fearless at the cliff-edge of doom,

    courageous in seastorm and earthquake,

Before the rush and roar of oceans,

    the tremors that shift mountains.


Anne Steele, the author of “Dear Refuge…” lived a life that many of us would call tragic. Her mother died when she was three; a potential spouse died when she was 20; she lost both her stepmother and sister-in-law in her 40s; she took care of her ailing father until his death. Her life was laden with loss. What’s more, she suffered from symptoms similar to malaria: persistent pain, headaches, and fever throughout the entirety of her life. In her last years she was bedridden.


Surely, if you are honest, you have parts of your story that enable you to relate to this sister. You have heartaches, you have griefs. Where do you turn “when sorrows rise, when waves of trouble roll?” Where do you take “each rising grief?” Not “where should you turn,” but in honest reflection, where have you turned? Often in the swirl of suffering, in the fog of fear, we have turned to what makes the most sense to our old self - the thing that promises the quickest escape and the most resolution now. In other words, from a lack of faith and in self-reliance, we have turned to sin.


Suffering brings us face-to-face with what we believe about God - about His character, about His policies for running the world, and about His wisdom. Often, our suffering reveals just how alive our inner legalist still is. We ask questions like, “What did I do to deserve this? What did I do to anger God? Is He punishing me?” “What can I do to get Him to make things better?” These questions can lead us to turn away from God, leaving us more alone, more alienated, more unsure, and more self-dependent. This is the insanity of sin that rises to the surface in the midst of suffering. 


In her hymn, Anne Steele points us back to God our hope - the One Whose word we rely upon: 


            To Thee I tell each rising grief

            For Thou alone canst heal

            Thy word can bring a sweet relief 

For every pain I feel


God, in His Word, has provided for us everything that we need pertaining to life - how to live even in the darkest of days. But on those days when we aren’t quite sure anymore about God’s heart for us, when we aren’t sure He cares and we wonder whether we really do belong to him, and we don’t even really see a glimmer of hope on the horizon…as believers, we join Peter in saying, “but Lord, where else would we go?”


            Yet gracious God where shall I flee

            Thou art my only trust

            And still my soul would cleave to Thee 

            Though prostrate in the dust


When we, with the seeming last gasp of feeble faith that we have, turn to God and offer Him our grief, our complaint, our longing for things to be different, in belief that He was true when He promised to help us, we find our faith growing. We find that our trust in Him is not just wishful thinking. We find that our faith is like whistling in the dark: it helps to give us courage and hold the darkness at bay, because we know that the throne of grace is still open to us.


Thy mercy seat is open still

            Here let my soul retreat

            With humble hope attend Thy will

            And wait beneath Thy feet


We are like those Paul described in Corinth: we are pressed, but not crushed; we are persecuted, not abandoned; we are struck down but not destroyed. Because God has kept us. He has preserved us. We can wait with hope. We can wait in the middle of our worst day, because Jesus, on His worst day, opened the door for us to have a place to go with all of our pain and sin. His crucifixion has proven that all of God’s promises find their yes in Him - that he is the Man of Sorrows who is acquainted with grief. He is the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He is our very present Help in times of trouble. He is the sure and steady anchor for our soul. He is the rock of ages that we hide in. Jesus, the fairest of ten thousand…He is dear to us. Jesus, the rock of ages…He is our refuge. Jesus, gentle and lowly and offering rest for our souls…He cares when we are weary.


So, now that we know what we have - Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God - let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing - experienced it all. All but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy. Accept the help.