Many moons I took a group of adolescent guys on a winter camping trip. We picked a weekend in late January and met in the hinterlands of northern, MN. Our intent was to camp out in tents all weekend. We hadn’t counted on the weather being as brutal as it turned out to be. When we started our hike to the camp site the temperature was 30 degrees below zero. The temperature for the weekend would not get above 10 below zero. As we neared the place where we were going to put up our tents we realized that we really needed better, more secure shelter. Only a few of us were adequately prepared for the brutal, brutal cold. If we didn’t find adequate shelter we could be in some serious trouble. Luckily, we found a nearby cabin …part of a Boys Club camp …nothing more than an uninsulated cabin for children. But as we peered through the windows we saw that it had a small stove. We broke the lock to get in and made the security of that small cabin, our shelter, our refuge from the frigid cold for two days. At any other time it would not have been my first choice. That weekend …it felt like the Hilton. By the way, we made things right with the owners of that cabin.
A few weeks ago I was coming back to the burbs from the city. I was in Hillside when some huge winds and rain came rumbling in. I pulled into a Walgreen’s. Seeking shelter. I wasn’t the only one. There were others who knew that was happening out there was bigger than their capacity to handle it.
We know about shelter. Any port in a storm sailors are known to say. But not all ports are good for the long haul, not all shelters are adequate for extended periods of time and not all shelters can stand up against deep cold and high winds. No, not any port will do. We know that. For many of us have pulled into ports that we thought were safe and secure but instead proved to be unsteady and filled with peril.
In the 73rd the writer shares his frustration and anger.. He’s been looking around and wondering why people who indulge themselves seem to be happy and those who obey the rules are getting the short end of the stick. I’m sure we can all relate can’t we?
And then the psalmist goes into the sanctuary of the Lord and exits a different person. Contrite. He confesses to a bitter heart. And out of that confession comes a clear resolve..
Then I realized that my heart was bitter,
and I was all torn up inside.
I was so foolish and ignorant—I must have seemed like a senseless animal to you.
Yet I still belong to you; you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny.
Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on earth.
My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.
Those who desert him will perish, for you destroy those who abandon you.
But as for me, how good it is to be near God!I have made the Sovereign Lord my shelter, and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do.
So, the big question today is this. Do we live in the shelter of God? And especially, when life gets tough, when we’re surprised by circumstance, when we’re humbled by uncertainty, when we’re beaten down and scrambling, and when life seems unfair … is our first instinct to find shelter in God, to be near to Him or is the shelter of God only an abstract concept? Do we seek to be near to God or do we distance ourselves from Him when the road gets tough? Is the shelter of God our normal resting place?’
A few weeks ago I was at Breakthrough Urban Ministries where I hang out a couple of days a week. Arloa Sutter, the Founder and Executive Director, had bad news for the staff. She said that the recession had finally caught up with us. We’re at the edge of our resources. For the second year in a row she announced there would be no raises. In addition, a couple people would lose their jobs. No longer would the organization be able to afford matching payments in the 401 c plan. Hard news for many people already on the edge of a financial precipice.
When she was done talking. Someone asked if we could pray. And we did. And I wondered what kind of prayers would be prayed? What I heard amazed me. The prayers were prayers of great thanksgiving. Of praise. Thanking God for where He’s worked in the past, how He has met people at point of need, and how he is already at work in the midst of this bad news. One man begin to cry and repeatedly said "Thank you Lord, Thank you Lord. You are so good to us. You are so good."
In the break that followed. Arloa said, What just happened? I said “You just kicked people in the teeth and now they are thanking God for it.”
And I thought. How could this be? So I’ve been thinking about it. I’ve come to these conclusions. My friends were jumping into the arms and shelter of a God they knew. Intimately. They prayed Scripture. Which they knew. Intimately. They were in the habit of taking in the word of God. They were able to shout, “You know what you’re doing God. We’re trusting you.” Because they’ve trusted before. It’s easy to pray, “I’m in your arms Jesus” when you’ve been in the Savior’s arms before. Their identity was secure in the refuge of a God who knew them and they knew Him. Their memory was sharp about the ways God had met them at their point of need previously. They believe that even though everything is going crazy all around you …that when you are in the arms of God nothing can harm you. Nothing.
That’s why apostle Paul could say in Corinthians 2. We will be afflicted, perplexed, struck down and even persecuted in this life but affliction doesn’t have to crush us, being perplexed doesn’t have to lead to despair, being persecuted and struck down doesn’t mean that we’re forsaken or destroyed. Paul believed, deep in his being, that there is safety in the shelter of the kingdom of God. What about you?