My life has been sober lately, carrying various challenges. While my health has improved somewhat, the prolonged nature of this trial is a burden. Even still I manage the bare minimum in terms of activity, generally needing quantities of rest every evening and every weekend. There are still significant questions regarding future treatment; I've procrastinated emailing my doctor for lab results, not wanting to know the answer. My parents' health has been especially concerning lately, with emergency medical intervention for both of them. I can't help them, and wouldn't have the capacity to do so even if I lived closer. I had limited information on new complications occurring the day before my trip. Work always has some level of challenge; my morning before leaving for the retreat didn't go well.
At the retreat itself, new challenges surfaced. I was already tired, and poor sleep made things worse. Normal people can take in the activities of a big event; they might get tired, but they can enjoy the time and handle it okay. I can't, and I was reminded of my distance from being normal. My life is simple enough that I was not interested in typical female activities that others were doing; I felt disconnected. I was aware that while I would love to speak in such settings, the limitations of my body would interfere with my effectiveness and even ability to do so.
In the difficult moments of recent weeks and months, I have had a great longing, one that was present and reinforced even at the retreat. I have wanted someone to lean on - literally; I have yearned for someone to hug me or put their arm around me and hold me close, to support me, comfort me, and allow me to share my heart's burdens. There is no such person in my life, and I did not anticipate anything different at the retreat setting, even though it is what I still wanted.
I know there is one Person who does care about me that deeply and is willing to express that level of support, and my primary goal at the retreat was to seek solace and support from God. I went to the retreat knowing that I did not need the crafts, game time, conversations, fellowship, or various other pleasures of the camp; I needed to rest in God. I went with the intention of spending extended time with God, communing with Him through His Word and through prayer. I wanted to sit and relish His presence. I knew that I needed every possible minute of such activity, so I spent the free time of my weekend in the Psalms. I read and meditated. I talked to God about what I was reading: confession, yearning, petition, thanksgiving, and praise. My in-depth approach meant that I only reached Psalm 90, but it also meant that God could minister precious truth to me.
As I jotted down major recurring themes, two words stood out: "refuge" and "trust." Much of what I read tied into those ideas. God is repeatedly called a refuge. He is proclaimed as worthy of trust. There need be no fear of being ashamed in life's trials. God's track record is spotless, having repeatedly delivered His children and given them blessings. God is exceptional in every way; His righteousness, goodness, lovingkindness, and faithfulness are constantly proclaimed. Believers can be confident in God's care, fully assured of His attention. This is not based on their perfection, because they are frail and often fail. The Psalms echo with prayers of aspiration to walk closely with God, to grow and to be led. God does amazing work in the heart and soul, where the profoundest troubles of man occur. God's response is often compared to that of other sources. Man can't help himself, and the help of others falls far short. Even when others oppose, God supports, and the help He gives is the only truly effective aid. He always hears when His children call to Him. He especially cares and notices the most needy. He accepts and welcomes them, offering a close relationship. God is the best possible refuge, one that can be trusted whole-heartedly. These wonderful truths stirred my heart to poetic expression.
A Trusted Refuge: Themes in Psalms (Sonnet 49)I find in God each day a refuge sure.
Through countless acts, He's proven year by year
He always does what's right and good and pure.
His fail-proof, matchless pow'r is ever near.
I need this refuge, for I am so weak;
My heart and soul oft' struggle and despair.
God knows my frailty, but asks that I Him seek.
My deepest struggles bring His deepest care.
If others do not help, I can survive,
For God responds each time I call to Him.
My self and friends can never make me thrive,
But God prevails when other hopes are dim.
He is a shelter safe in which to trust,
So rest in peace and wait on Him, I must.
I could have done nothing better with my weekend. While not an exuberant, bubbling victory, it certainly was not defeat. It was stability, calmness, and comfort in the midst of what threatened to be the opposite. It was sweet reassurance that God alone can meet my deepest needs. He held me like I longed to be held, listened to me, comforted me, and gave me helpful truth. He was my refuge. God's answer was not dramatic nor outstanding, but He answered my prayer. He made the retreat worthwhile.
"Trust in Him at all times ... God is a refuge" (Psalm 62:8).