Day 3 of Lent, Psalm 9:
Walking on the Great Wall of China is more amazing than I expected. The towering and steep walls extend for over 5,000 miles, spanning all types of terrain and landscapes. This massive structure built to protect China from the outside, sought also to provide safety in the inside from foreign influence. Each stone alone offered little safety, yet together, provided a wall and stronghold of security. I imagine it felt much safer to be behind these walls instead of in the wide-open, unknown land.
The bible often uses words like “stronghold,” “fortress,” “refuge,” or “strong tower” in describing God’s protection for us. Psalm 9 says:
The Lord also will be a stronghold for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble;
and those who know Your name will put their trust in You.
For You, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.
God is like the Great Wall– a fortress of protection. He is a stronghold for us to run to, providing shelter and safety, love and wisdom. As we run to Him we are trusting in Him as our stronghold. Yet, it is easy to run to others things. I ask myself, “What do I run to in times of difficulty? What do I turn to when I am anxious or worried? What do I rely on when I am bored or troubled?”
Common strongholds we run to:
Food. I love sweets. It is so easy for me to have a piece of chocolate or baked good– which seems to satisfy me, momentarily. Then I find myself overindulging and looking forward to these false substitutes a little too frequently. A piece of chocolate with some coffee can easily gratify me! Some, talk about “emotional eating.” How easy it is to turn to food to soothe the boredom, to fill space and forget about things temporarily.
Social Media- My finger can mindlessly scroll through newsfeeds, photos, pins, and tweets. It is quick entertainment, yet it often leaves me dissatisfied. The satisfaction only lasts for a little bit, until comparison and envy creep in. Common thoughts for some might be: “Why did they post that? I wish I were in a relationship. Why was I not included? How could he be dating her already?” It can leave us a little empty.
Movies– There are many ways to escape. I love movies that take me back in time to “better’” days. What about you, how do movies and media help you to escape?
Relationships – Another boyfriend, a “bff,” or a community seems like it would improve things. If I had these things I would be understood or comforted. Maybe if I had better friendships or the right relationship I would feel better.
Shopping- It is funny how a trip to Target can do the trick. That little purchase just picks me up. But soon it wears off.
Control over my schedule- Organizing, keeping busy, putting up more boundaries can keep me feeling more in control and “happy.” It gives me a false sense of control in a world I really have little control over.
Your “stronghold” or thing you run to may be something totally different. Possibly it is alcohol, working harder and longer hours, exercise, images on your device, or sports. As long as we are living in the in-between (life with Christ but not in heaven yet), we will feel the pull to run to lesser things. It is like running to a crumbling wall, yet if feels like better protection than being vulnerable out in the open. We naturally will run to things that easily fill our space, soothe our pain, and make us feel good. Yet, they are not meant to meet our deepest longings. They remind us of the One who is our refuge. The quicker we take ahold of this, the quicker God can become our stronghold. There are so many good things to enjoy– things given for our enjoyment, but God is our true fortress, a strong tower. He wants us to run to Him when we are disappointed, feel unloved, overwhelmed, anxious, or in the midst of difficulties. Instead of choosing unprotected places we can run to the Stronghold, with and beside Him in safety. As I turn to Him when I am bored, troubled or in pain– I am trusting in Him and seeking Him for better things in the long run.
Think about what you run to. Ask God to show you. Is there someone you could ask to help you with this? Could you fast from this item or put limits on it for a time being? What could you put in place of it to point you to Christ?
He is our Stronghold. To think of Him changes me.