The Psalms are replete with teaching about finding refuge in God. But it is often hard to apply it, particularly if you are concerned about accurate understanding of the text. In a great many of those passages, there are historical contexts (such as David being chased through the wilderness) that brought about the writing that we do not face today. And I doubt that David's talk of finding refuge in God was authorially intended to address our bad hair days (if you have hair). God protected David in physical ways that everyone around could see and experience with him. He does not always do that for us. All of this is not to say that we cannot profitably use those passages. It is only to caution us about "davidizing" our lives with experiences or struggles that were not in view when David wrote.
However, David, like us, also faced emotional and spiritual struggles, arising both from those around him as well as from his own sinfulness. Many of our struggles are of that nature, such as the fight with sin that would destroy us, or the struggle with discouragement and dissatisfaction.
In the vein, Psalm 31 is a psalm most of us can identify with. In it, David is struggling physically and emotionally with the consequences of his iniquity (v. 10). His adversaries here are not likely Saul and his men, Absalom, or Shimei. His sinfulness has caused problems and brought shame and embarrassment to him.
But even in sin, the grace of God comes to David and to us, to remind us to find refuge in God, even when our bed is of our own making.
The difficult thing for some is to understand exactly what it means for us to find our refuge in God. It is easy to understand "refuge" when you are walking down the street and a sudden storm blows up. It is not always easy to know what taking refuge in God will look like in the midst of spiritual struggle, particularly in the guilt of sinfulness.
With that in mind, I offer here are a few reflections about taking refuge in God. Feel free to add your own in the comments.
1. Those who take refuge in God will always seek immediate forgiveness through confession.
A number of years ago I had a young man sitting in my office to whom I was presenting the plan of salvation. He understood it, and repeated it back to me. I asked him if he would like to trust Christ for salvation. He said, "Yes, but I better wait. I had a beer a little while ago." (Ironic how to him, a twenty year old unbeliever with no church background, there was something incompatible with beer and salvation.) We might smile or laugh at such a response, but how many times in our own lives do we postpone a request for forgiveness because we "just sinned" and we feel bad asking God for forgiveness that quickly. This is particularly poignant when we have knowingly or intentionally sinned. To take refuge in God means to seek forgiveness now and take refuge in his promise of grace.
2. Those who take refuge in God will always obey him.
It does not matter what pious platitudes come from your mouth. If you are not obeying God, then you are not taking refuge in him. You are seeking to solve your problems and find satisfaction your own way. Refuge in God is diametrically opposed to disobedience. Always. Sin is the attempt to take refuge in our own ingenuity to solve our current problems. Obedience it to take refuge in the eternal and omniscient wisdom of God to solve our problems.
3. Those who take refuge in God will refuse sinful reactions and manipulation.
In the face of mistreatment or difficulty, we often resort to wrong responses because it comes so naturally to us. (That's why it is called the natural man.) These wrong responses are part of the disobedience through which we seek refuge in our own ability to handle the current problem. When we take refuge in God, we might not enjoy how others are treating us, but we will not resort to wrong responses. We will let God settle the debts. This does not mean that we will not practice biblical confrontation in grace and love. But it does mean we will not seek vengeance or retaliation. We will let God be the avenger.
4. Those who seek God will have joy in the midst of pain.
We will understand that "our times are in his hand" (Psa 31:15). We will understand that this day has exactly what God intended it to have, and therefore while we may not be happy, and we may not be comfortable, we will be joyful knowing that we can trust the lovingkindness of our Father.
5. Those who seek God will have confidence in the midst of struggle.
As with the previous, we will understand that this struggle is exactly what God intended for me today, and I will face it with confidence that God's sovereignty rules over all, including the seemingly incidental or accidental encounters of my life.
Oh that I could learn to take refuge in God consistently. How sweet a life it must be.