Winters in North Dakota can be brutal. In January, it is common for the temperature to dip below zero and stay there for extended periods of time. With the cold comes the snow. Although it may not come in extreme quantities, what does come stays and piles up. When you add the wind, you get a third component to a North Dakota winter: blizzard. The violent winds will lift the snow into the air, blinding those who seek to travel. It also deposits the snow in inconvenient places, like the end of the street that leads from my house to the main road. At one point this winter, the drift was so large that the snowplows just piled the snow against it and left it until a more convenient time.
In all of this, I am blessed to live in a warm house and work in a cozy office that shelters me from the elements. I make brief forays out into the weather. I even venture to walk to work, which takes me all of 15 minutes. But I don’t have to live out in the elements. I am sheltered and protected. This is not a reality shared by the small creatures who inhabit my neighborhood.
The other night, as I was taking my dog out for his nightly sniff around the back yard, I noticed an interesting set of rabbit tracks. They traversed the ridge of a snow drift, which extends along the back of my house, and then disappeared under my deck. Except for a narrow opening along the bottom edge of the deck, it is completely surrounded by wide, deep piles of snow. As I looked at the set of tracks, I was puzzled at first, then it hit me: Shelter! The rabbit has discovered a relatively warm place to find shelter from the brutal winter weather. I’m glad, because we all need to find a place of shelter from the storm.
For us, the storm usually doesn’t take the form of wind and snow, but of something less tangible, though just as real. We are faced with the storm of economic uncertainty, the storm of strained relationships, the storm of feeling unloved and unvalued. We do not all face the same storm, but we all face some storm. When our own particular storm comes, we feel exposed and vulnerable. What we need at that point is shelter. A place to find refuge.
There are several places in my back yard where a rabbit might find shelter. Among the bare branches of a small bush. Or perhaps under the low hanging bows of the evergreen tree. But there is none as secure as under my deck. Likewise, there are many places in life to which we can turn for temporary shelter, but all will disappoint in the end. The one place where we can genuinely feel secure is in the presence of God.
God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
When we put our faith in God through Jesus Christ, we can face every storm with confidence and strength. God doesn’t promise to remove the storms of life. He promises to walk with us through those storms. When we allow Jesus to be our refuge, we discover a sense of security that cannot be shaken by circumstances. There is not a more secure shelter than the eternal, unbounded love of Christ.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
"For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered."
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.