A stronghold in times of trouble

by Mindy Kiker

Hiding Place by Kai Schreiber flickr.com_photosgenista_75511494__aa4aed1e74_CC BY-ND 2.0

The LORD also will be a stronghold for the oppressed, A stronghold in times of trouble. Psalm 9:9

When I face trouble, conflict, or chaos I look around for a safe place to hide, an escape. God is always there as a refuge or place of retreat, but unfortunately I’ve made a few hiding places of my own. These dwellings certainly are “strongholds” but only in the worst sense of the word.

One of my favorite strongholds is blame-shifting. This response to conflict helps me make trouble someone else’s fault. I frame all interactions into a win-lose paradigm and life becomes adversarial.

I can hear the voice of the accuser and it sounds an awful lot like . . . me! You don’t want to know me when I’ve been hurt and compensate by throwing myself into striving mode with a long to-do list and a tight time schedule. I inevitably start to feel the strain, but instead of dealing with my own heart before the Lord, I like to play the blame game:

It’s the kids’ problem — they’re so disobedient. Why did I have so many children?

It’s my husband’s problem — he’s not at all helpful. Why didn’t I stay single?

It’s my many obligations — why didn’t I say “No!?” What was I thinking?

You know the routine. Hunt for the scapegoat. Search for the one to blame. Point the finger at the circumstances. Anything but looking into my own heart. Anything to drown out the voice of my conscience which reminds me of a truth that I know well, “The only one you can force to kneel in front of the cross is yourself. You can’t drag anyone else there.” But I want someone else to repent. Not me!

Unfortunately, when I’m in self-justification mode, offended-at-the-world mode, I’m not ready to admit that I’m the one who needs to be at the cross with repentant heart (Colossians 3:13). Instead, I take one more dangerous step of blame-shifting — I unconsciously tap into places of unforgiveness  and add to the offense that I harbor against my close family and friends.

These ought-to’s gather stealthily, silently until I am shocked by how easily I respond with angry words or sullen silence. I shield my eyes from Hebrews 12:15, “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up and causes you trouble, or many of you will become defiled.

I may as well just state the obvious: harboring these offenses in our hearts is not going to build the kind of relationship we desire. Unforgiveness wrecks intimacy.

CS Lewis cuts to the chase:

“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”

Throughout our lives, keeping our hearts free of offense will relieve us of much self-inflicted trouble. When God is our refuge, we have a chance to sow blessing into the well-being and emotional health of our family and friends.

I pray that you find the way of humility and forgiveness, releasing God’s love to the precious people in your life. May God be the only stronghold you run to when conflict or chaos descend. Protection and comfort can be yours even during times of trouble when you choose to hide yourself in God:

Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” Psalm 51:12