June 10, 1997
Since January, residents of Bangladesh, Tonga, Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Madagascar have endured tropical cyclones. Madagascar was double-whammied by an invasion of locusts.
Floods made headlines in several places such as Winnipeg and the Midwestern States, also including China, Afghanistan, Tanzania, Ecuador, Bolivia, Mozambique and Malawi. Also in the past five months, drought struck Ethiopia, Ecuador (also flooded) and Kenya. Earthquakes rocked Iran, Trinidad and Tobago, China, Iran and Peru. Because of these disasters, many people died.
Weather is not the only calamity that hits unexpectedly, taking or changing lives. Traffic accidents, cancer, heart disease also takes their toll. Consider Mark O’Brien. Struck by polio forty years ago, O’Brien lives in an iron lung. Without it, he would not survive, nor would the 118 others who call one of these contraptions home. Even at that, if there were a better place to find protection, all 119 would want it. For them, this machine is both a refuge and a prison.
Polio victims are not the only people who need a refuge. All of us experience difficulties that we cannot handle by ourselves. Sometimes we look for hiding places or shelter when we are in danger or when our world spins out of control.
When calamities happen, many look to God. The psalmist wrote, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”
The psalmist believed God was always ready to help him. Even if the world was falling apart, he knew that he could find a sense of security in the Lord.
Perhaps it was this psalm that prompted the winning entry for a painting depicting “peace.” The artist thought that a calm sea or a lazy meadow would not make the statement he wanted to make. Instead, he painted a severe storm with threatening waves of the sea crashing against a cliff. In the center, sheltered in the cleft of a rock, he placed a bird on her nest, calm and safe in the middle of the turmoil.
The Apostle Paul knew inner peace is possible in outward difficulties. He wrote, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” He explains, “We do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
Paul knew God is in control. He also knew God uses all things to shape the character of His people, to help them become more like His Son. With that in mind, the tough things in life did not get him down or rob him of his hope. He was able to persevere through them.
When we put our faith in Christ, we too can know God as our refuge in the midst of life’s storms. His Spirit and His presence become a comfort, His truth a peaceful resting place.