Most of us live under the illusion of invulnerability, particularly when we’re young—particularly, too, I think, when we’re male. Men enjoy the illusion of controlling their own destiny. We determine our own fate (or perceive we’re doing so) by acting and taking things into our own hands. We feel we’ve got it all figured out, and everything is under control. Look us up fifty years from now—we’ll be playing with our great-grandchildren. We’ll live forever! We live in the illusion of invulnerability.
The first thing a serious crisis does is burst that pleasant bubble. Suddenly everything we’ve believed about life seems to be shattered. Our lives are in chaos just when everything seemed to be in such fine order. Psalm 71:7 says it this way: “I have become as a wonder to many, but You are my strong refuge.”
What was David talking about? David was a king. He knew that everyone was watching him to see what he’d do. Everyone knew the awful details of his dysfunctional family. He was not only the king, but also the man who talked to everyone about God. Now he seemed to have feet of clay. What was he going to do?
David didn’t know what to do, but he knew enough to watch God to find out what God would do. The king didn’t have all the answers, but he knew Someone who did. He was wise enough to know the limits of his own wisdom.
In Psalm 71:2, David cries out, “Deliver me in Your righteousness, and cause me to escape.”
Can you identify with that? It’s the most basic cry the soul can release: Lord, I want out! Stop the world; I want to get off! Oh, how we’d love to simply wake up tomorrow morning and find that God has miraculously delivered us from all the effects of the coronavirus. We want things the way they were.
We’ve already heard David’s words, “Do not cast me off in the time of old age; do not forsake me when my strength fails” (v. 9). Can you see the insecurity and loss expressed in those words? Remember the bold and courageous kind of man David was. But time and circumstances and failure have removed any illusions he had of being in control of his own destiny. He no longer buys into the illusion of invulnerability.
That’s not a bad thing. One commentator has called Psalm 71 “a psalm for a godly old man.” I like the “godly” part, don’t you? The “old man” part, well, that will have to grow on me. But this psalm does lay out a path for those who have traveled a great distance on the trail of life, progressed in years, and entered some of the wastelands. This psalm shows how to crown our mature years with godliness.
As we age, our natural defenses against life’s injuries begin to erode. Perhaps we’ve retired and no longer have that cherished career to lean upon. 0ur income is no longer disposable. Our eyes are weaker, our joints are fragile, and our energy is ﬂeeting. And we begin to see the names of our friends in the morning paper, no longer as the movers and shakers who dominate the business page, but in the section that gives the details of funeral services. What a humbling passage of life that is. Little by little, we’re stripped of all the things in life that have lent us security. It’s a season of slowly developing anxiety.
If we choose the right path, we ﬁnd ourselves hurrying into the presence of God for true security and ultimate comfort. We’ve seen the worst of life. Now we’re capable of understanding just how much we really depend on Him. We ﬁnally believe that indeed life is a vapor, as the Scriptures say. We have nothing to count on but our loving Father.
David wrote many psalms about hurrying into God’s presence in fear and trembling. It’s certainly one of the great themes of the Psalms, and l’ve always found it interesting that he uses three key metaphors: “Be my strong refuge… You are my rock and my fortress” (v.3; emphasis added).
David was under attack from his own children. He had spent a lifetime building a strong and secure kingdom, and now he could feel it slipping from his grasp. In the midst of his insecurity, he found that God was his refuge, his rock, and his fortress. And he ﬂed behind the comfort and safety of those walls.
Perhaps you’ve seen the film Lawrence of Arabia. The real T. E. Lawrence, who was a secret agent during the First World War, often engaged in desert guerrilla warfare against the Turks. The enemy forces who constantly chased Lawrence often felt they had him hemmed in and trapped. But he would ride to his hidden desert fortress. He was never too far away from it, and if worse came to worse, he could flee there, find safety, and strengthen himself on the ample provisions of food and water. Lawrence had a refuge, a rock, and a fortress in the dangers of the wilderness. But God provides a much better one for you and me.
In those times when we feel the hostile forces of the world pursuing us, we long for a strong refuge. As we feel suddenly exposed and vulnerable and our feet are unsteady in the shifting sands beneath us, we yearn for a rock and a fortress—the kind of security found only in God.
Dr. David Jeremiah appears this Tuesday on LIFE Today. Taken from Shelter In God by Dr. David Jeremiah. Copyright ©2020 by David P. Jeremiah. Used by permission of W Publishing, an imprint of Thomas Nelson.