IN GOD WE FIND INWARD PEACE AMIDST OUTWARD TRIALS
“What other refuge can there be, except our God?” – St. Augustine –
The violent Northeaster rages. The wild winds batter the ship as the churning waves toss it to and fro. It has been many days since the sun or stars have been visible in the sky. The ship has been blown completely off course, driven along at the mercy of the winds. There appears to be no end in sight for the storm.
The apostle Paul, in chains for sharing the gospel of Christ, is aboard this ship bound for Italy. The departure from Fair Havens, a refuge on the island of Crete, had been against his advice. The captain and crew had overruled his warnings. For, after all, he was merely a prisoner.
Paul, with discernment from the Holy Spirit, had warned that setting out from port would bring great disaster and loss, endangering all who were on board. Perhaps Fair Havens was not the ideal wintering port. Yet it was God’s intended refuge, His safe haven for all the passengers on this ship.
“As for God, His way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; He shields all who take refuge in Him.” – Psalm 18:30
Intellectual rationalization overrides spiritual guidance. The decision is made to set sail for a more advantageous port where they can spend the winter. The fact that God’s blessings will not go with them appears to be of no importance. The gentle south wind lulls the captain into complacently believing they can safely set out.
The storm soon comes upon them. The turbulent winds and waves carry the ship hundreds of miles off course. After many days, the crew becomes desperate. They toss the cargo and ship’s tackle overboard to lighten the load. Ropes are passed beneath the ship to keep it from breaking apart in the storm’s fury. Fearful of running aground on the sandbars, they lower the sea anchor. All hope of being saved is fading.
That night, an angel visits Paul to offer him hope…
“Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.” – Acts 27:24
Paul promises everyone on board that God will spare their lives. He exhorts the captain and crew to keep up their courage. For Paul’s faith rests in God who will surely follow through with His promise to save them. He will be their refuge in the midst of the storm.
For it is God who holds their ship together, not the ropes. It is God who keeps their ship from running aground. It is God who protects their ship from the relentless battering of the powerful storm.
“Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge.” – Psalm 62:8
Paul encourages the men to eat the meager supply of food that is left… for they will need strength. They will be shipwrecked… yet all passengers will be saved. Paul takes the bread and gives thanks to God. The meal is shared and all regain their strength.
Dawn brings view of land… a bay with a sandy beach. The ship runs aground in the shallows. Those who can swim jump overboard and head for shore. The rest float ashore on planks of wood from the broken ship. All 276 men reach land safely. God protected everyone as He had promised.
“My soul, wait in silence for God alone, for my hope is from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my refuge; I will not be shaken.” – Psalm 62:5-6
God is our refuge in the midst of the storms of life. He is our place of calm and peace. When times are more than we can bear, we escape to His loving presence. For it is there we can think rationally… not with fear-based irrationality… but with discernment from the Holy Spirit.
God gives us inward peace amidst outward trials. Paul does not resort to panic, desperation or despair like the rest of the crew and passengers. He is not shaken by circumstances. He has faith that God will be their refuge from danger
“What a blessed truth to understand that, in the middle of all of our difficulties and calamities, we have a refuge. Certainly, there is a time to go forth into battle and engage the enemy. But this should only be under the direct orders of the Captain of our salvation.” – A.W. Tozer
God is our eternal refuge, not just an interim retreat in times of trouble. He protects us from danger as we abide in Him. Like the captain of Paul’s ship, we do not always recognize His rescue. We sometimes move ahead of God and His blessings. Yet only the Captain of our salvation can lead us to safety.
God is our only real, absolute security. We find shelter in the shadow of His wings (Psalm 57:1). He becomes our place of refuge, our safe haven. Trials, troubles and dangers will come our way. Yet God will rescue those who love Him. In His presence we find peace and hope in the midst of the storms of life.