His Wings of Refuge

Dear Lord, Make me a bird so I can fly away; make me a bird so I can fly away; make me a bird so I can fly away; make me a bird so I can fly away. This was the desperate prayer of a little girl named Jenny portrayed in the movie Forrest Gump. In one of the opening scenes of the movie, it shows Jenny and her best friend Forrest running as fast as they can to a cornfield beside her house. Her father was in a rage because she got away before he could force her back into the house. His voice was difficult to outrun~ but Jenny’s prayer whispered among the tall stalks of corn seemed to suppress his voice for those brief moments.

Jenny knew she could not run very far away or hide for very long from her sexually abusive father~ for she was only about five years old. But somehow she knew the Father she could run to for refuge. Somehow this sweet little girl believed God had the power to help and protect her. God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1). He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge and his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart (protection) (Psalm 91:4).

God heard Jenny’s prayer that day: he does not ignore the cry of the afflicted (Psalm 9:12b). He reached down from on high and took hold of her; he drew her out of deep waters. He rescued her from her powerful enemy, from her foe who was too strong for her (from Psalm 18:16-17). Shortly after her prayer to the Lord, Jenny was removed from her home and sent to live with her Grandmother~ never again to be under the abusive control of her father.

Did you feel safe as a child? If not, where was your hiding place? Where did you find refuge for your helpless and frightened heart? Perhaps you felt safe as a child and the torrential storms came later. One way or another we have all had no choice but to cope. What would be the alternative?

In working with people in counseling over the years, suicide assessments became necessary at times. When did a person feel suicidal? It was when they no longer knew how to cope with the emotional turmoil of life. They tried using all of the tools they had, but all were failing. As the person felt more and more helpless~ despair set in and hope was no longer in their grasp. When I asked these dear people if they really wanted to die, their answer across the board was no, but. The but meant they could not stand things as they were any longer. It was too much. Their own feelings had become too awful to bear. They needed to escape the pain~ to disappear~ to no longer feel~ or something!

The Lord taught me not to be afraid of the dark thoughts of hurting people. In fact, it was an amazing blessing that they would say these unspeakable thoughts out loud. They were reaching their hand out of the darkness into the light. I am quite sure that many people who kept these tormenting things inside ultimately took their own lives~ never having found the shelter of God’s loving arms. But those who had that almost undetectable bit of strength and courage to reach out~ discovered this: No matter how troubled and distressed their mind; no matter how helpless and hopeless their heart~ their refuge from this world would be found in Jesus Christ. He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty (Psalm 91:1).

These people who were contemplating suicide had come to the edge of the cliff~ with nothing left of themselves. They were right~ it was too much: The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him (Elijah) and said: ‘Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.’ So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. There he went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the Lord came to him (1 Kings 19:7-9a). Elijah was in despair. He had prayed to the Lord that he might die. He was all alone and the enemy was threatening his life. But he knew where to run. He was running from the enemy to his loving Father. Elijah spoke his unspeakable words out loud to the Lord~ finding comfort and nurturing to restore his strength. He was then able to continue on to his place of refuge~ the mountain of God.

When hurting people reached out to me for help through counseling~ I knew it was God who was their true refuge. He simply used me to feed and replenish them in His hope and love. Above all things, they needed to come to know Him as the one to run to~ the one to hide in. God is the One who copes for us~ so that we can live~ unburdened and untroubled by this world. We are not here merely to survive this life and cope with it the best we can. If we go to the Lord, He will take the whole load off of our shoulders onto His. Jesus says: Come to me you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30).

As we read further in the story of Elijah, we find that he had an amazing encounter with the Lord on Mount Horeb. He sought God in his trial and found Him. And all of the days of Elijah’s life were spent in the care of His loving Heavenly Father. But what happened to Jenny? She ran to the Lord for refuge as a little girl, and was rescued from her horribly oppressive circumstances. Would she continue to find refuge in our loving Lord throughout her life?

Unfortunately, the answer is no. It appeared that her life remained fairly stable under her Grandmother’s care, but once she got out of high school and into the world her life began to unravel.

It became apparent that Jenny had not learned to turn to God as a way of life. She did what so many sexually abused people do~ she turned to the opposite sex to find a sense of love and belonging. Jenny became sexually unrestrained~ treating herself as a sex object just as her father had done. She became more and more self-destructive~ turning to abusive men and to drugs~ even to the deadly chemical heroine. As a child, Jenny ran to the right place in her pain~ finding exactly what she needed. But as she turned to the world to soothe her unhealed wounds, she could not run far enough away. No matter what Forrest said or did to show her she was worth being loved and treated well, she could not hear or receive it. Eventually, Jenny contracted AIDS. She was with Forrest for a short time~ but then she was gone before he knew it~ as always. She died tragically at a very young age.

There was a hint that Jenny faced her past to some degree before her death. A scene near the end of the movie shows her throwing rocks at the house where she was sexually abused~ releasing some of the anger that had been suppressed for so long. Sadly, her anger had been turned against herself most of her life. The house was torn down shortly thereafter. But there was no reference to God in any way when it came to Jenny~ not since that day in the cornfield when she was five years old.

Some might say: It’s only a movie. Well, if it’s just a movie, why write such a heart-breaking ending. The writer actually portrayed very well the story of so many people who self-destruct one way or another because of unresolved childhood issues. There are SO many who have never come to know the love of Christ in the midst of their turmoil. So many have tried to find refuge in this world and died trying~ never having found their Savior.

Some may also say: Well, I was abused as a child and God never rescued me! This person may very well feel abandoned or forgotten by God. In this case, it is very possible that they have also run to the world for refuge~ not understanding why God did not protect them. Why wouldn’t God rescue every abused child from their circumstances?

If you feel that God abandoned you as a child, it is perfectly reasonable that you would have many questions for Him~ and many feelings toward Him. God understands how you feel, and is in no way offended by your questions. If you have these kinds of unresolved issues with God, I urge you to go to Him with all of your feelings and questions. He will show you that He is completely safe. Healing takes time, and trust comes gradually. But if you allow God to show you His heart~ He will surely bring healing to yours.

I think we can all attest to the fact that God often does not remove us from our difficult circumstances whether we ask Him or not. We each have our journey in coming to know the Lord and understanding His ways. But what we do know is that no matter what the situation, God is our refuge within it. Running to God and hiding in Him brings protection, nurturing, healing, and strength. He is giving us what we need to face life with a steadfast heart. He becomes our anchor in every storm. We are not running and hiding from life as a victim of this world. We are living victoriously in Him.

Whether it is the prophet Elijah or a back woods little girl How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings (Psalm 36:7). We’ve all heard the phrase: I want to be free as a bird!. Maybe that was the expression Jenny heard that brought that beautiful prayer to her heart. God may not make you a bird to escape from the human life He has given you~ but He does something even better. He makes you free in Him: But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint (Isaiah 40:31).

God’s love is better than life! Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands (Psalm 63:3-4).

Where do you turn in times of trouble? God wants you to discover the amazing things that will happen when you turn to Him! Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him (Psalm 62:8). You will find what it means that your soul will find rest in God alone. He will do things in your heart that you will never ever find anyplace else. You will experience safety, protection, comfort, assurance, encouragement, peace, joy, and freedom beyond what you have ever known! So in all the trials you face in this life~ go to Him! He is right there waiting for you with open arms.

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