By Jessamyn Rains
"But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; Let them ever sing for joy And spread your protection over them, That those who love your name may exult in you." (Psalm 5:11)
Shelter is a basic human need. We are weak, frail beings who need protection from the sun, wind, rain, and snow, as well as from wild animals, criminals, thieves, and others who would seek to harm us.
To find refuge is to find shelter or protection of some kind from hardship or distress; refuge is a place of safety from imminent danger. When someone finds refuge, she finds relief and respite–peace–from some difficulty that has been plaguing or stalking her.
It is interesting that the Psalmist says “let all who take refuge in you rejoice” –rather than “let all who take refuge in you breathe a sigh of relief.”
In his poem “On Joy and Sorrow,” Kahlil Gibran describes the relationship between joy and sorrow as, put simply, two sides of the same coin. The things we grieve over are the things that once gave us joy; the things that give us joy are often the things we desired at one time and, perhaps, suffered for the lack of them.
In the same poem, Gibran claims that “the deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.” Scripture describes a similar relationship between joy and sorrow: “Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy”(Psalm 125:6) and “weeping may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).
If we examine the flip side of our joys, what sorrows might we find? For instance, on the other side of the joy I feel at having a house full of children is a memory of emptiness: a memory of being a young widow, childless, living alone. Would I be as joyful about my family if I had never experienced such loss and loneliness?
What sorrow do we find on the other side of this exhortation in the Psalms, that we who take refuge in God should rejoice?
We find the sorrow of being unprotected, unsafe, and vulnerable to both spiritual and temporal attacks. We find the sorrow of our own smallness and defenselessness, our inability to, with our own efforts, bring about our salvation and deliverance from that which would, given the chance, utterly destroy us.
When we are aware of the myriad dangers we have been saved from, we will rejoice in the ultimate, absolute safety of God as our refuge.
Similarly, those who rejoice in Christ’s coming to the earth do so because they are aware of the sorrow that lay on the other side of this joy: the tragic fall of mankind; the intractable sinfulness of the human heart; the failure of even the best of us to live according to God’s standards; the grim reality that, without the intervention of a Savior, we all merit eternal punishment, and there is nothing we can do about it.
But Christ is more than enough to fill the sorrowful cavern that sin has carved into our being.
The Christ who came to save us also keeps us; He is our refuge, and no one can snatch us from His hand (John 10: 28). Our safety and security in Him is complete; there are no leaky roofs or broken windows in His house. The thief who comes to steal, kill, and destroy has no access to our souls when we take refuge in Him.
When we understand this, our hearts overflow with joy.