Our Refuge and Strength
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble.” –Psalm 46:1
For several years I’ve had the privilege of proofreading the devotions our confirmands submit for publication in preparation for the Rite of Confirmation where they will publicly affirm their Christian faith. It’s truly a joy to read about their heartfelt understanding of who God is and how much He has done for them.
That’s not to say that the past year has been easy for the Confirmation Class of 2021. Several students lost a family member or friend after long, drawn-out battles with cancer. Mental health issues bloomed as COVID-19 forced kids to adjust to a whole new way of learning. And coping with the lack of social interaction was particularly difficult. As Allison Umbenhaur so eloquently put it in her devotion: “The gales of anxiety clashed against my mental house of safety…”
As I read the Scripture verses the confirmands chose, I was often struck by how consistently God presented Himself to each of them as their refuge and strength. “The Lord gave me strength to go on,” Maxton Henderson wrote in praise for how God sustained him as he ran cross-country, later stating: “I can do anything as long as I trust in the Lord to help me.” Allison echoed that thought, writing: “Even when I thought no one was there for me, God was beside me…He soothed the storms that kept me awake…”
God is our refuge and strength, the psalmist wrote in Psalm 46. And I’m struck by how all-encompassing these words are. For me, they sum up both our mental and physical understanding of God’s provision for us. Refuge, of course, implies “a condition of being safe or sheltered from pursuit, danger, or trouble.” In God’s arms we find a hiding place until the trouble is past. Strength, on the other hand, is “the capacity of an object or person to withstand great force or pressure.” God’s strength gives us the boldness and courage to face our enemies head on. And emerge victorious!
I hope you have the chance, as I did, to read and reflect on the inspiring devotions our confirmands have written this year. As with past Confirmation students, there’s a vulnerability to their stories that touches me deeply. But I also see faith, bold and beautiful, in a God who they affirm walks beside them every day. “He was there to lift my spirits on the foggiest days…” Allison concludes. “…ever-present, ever-loving, and stronger than the strongest pill.” Amen!