[Originally published in the Monroe News on March 11, 2022]
When you travel through the wilderness of the mountains in Europe, particularly in the French and Italian Alps, they have various refuges located in amazing places. These are essentially mountain huts that provide places of help and rescue for hikers. For someone in distress a refuge can be lifesaving. It is a place of safety. It is a place of protection from the elements or the wild. Under the shelter of a refuge one is in good hands and can find rest.
In February 2014 my father, my good friend Matt and myself stayed in a refuge for two nights. This refuge wasn’t in the alps of Europe. It was actually here stateside on the slopes of one of the most well known mountains in our nation. On the eastern slopes of Pikes Peak in Colorado is a refuge known as Barr Camp. It is only accessible to the public via a long hike. We stayed there in the dead of winter. It wasn’t an emergency stop or anything like that. Rather it was a warm bed, a hot meal, and a refuge for our weary legs during our adventures on the mountain. We summited the mountain after a grueling 13 mile climb in deep snow and steep mountain slopes. Weariness was before us and the refuge of the camp was just what the doctor ordered when night drew near.
In my ministry over recent weeks I’ve been witness to great weariness among friends and acquaintances throughout the community. I’ve seen individuals in hospitals who are dealing with the weariness of continued illness. When cancer has wrecked a body and taken every ounce of strength, where does one turn for refuge? When financial troubles and rampant inflation strike a family hard and the bills mount up higher, where is the refuge? When the long weariness and fatigue of the pandemic and restrictions and hampered abilities to live a daily life grow one’s patience thin, is there still a refuge? All of these stresses leave us tired and weary and without comfort and in search of a refuge and shelter.
If you are among the weary looking for refuge I turn you to the Lord Jesus Christ. A number of Christian hymnals contain a hymn of fitting title: “Jesus, Refuge of the Weary”. The opening lines speak to my point:
“Jesus, refuge of the weary,Be it desert or wilderness or mountainside or small town America, we’re all in need of a good refuge from the weariness that is all around us. How does one come to partake of Jesus as a refuge? Repentance and faith. Repentance in recognizing the shame and failure of our lives to live without sin. Repentance in coming to grips with the fact that we cannot save ourselves. Repentance in receiving the desire to change our lives for the better, which is to change our lives to live in the love of Christ. And that’s where faith comes in. Faith recognizing that we don’t have to save ourselves. Jesus Christ did just that. Faith receiving the strength, the solace, the shelter, the protection of our Lord.
blest Redeemer, whom we love,
fountain in life's desert dreary,
Savior from the world above”
Jesus spoke of this finding refuge in Him with multiple analogies during His ministry. Whether it would be the young chicks finding refuge under the protective wings of their mother, or the sheep finding refuge in the arms of their Good Shepherd. It is clear what we need and who we need when life’s troubles hit us.
In my adventures in the wilderness and the mountains we’ve been fortunate to have a refuge at times when it was needed most. I can say the same about daily life. There is no hardship or tragedy or challenge too great that we don’t have a refuge where we can find rest and shelter. That refuge is indeed our Savior Jesus.
To God be the glory.
Mark Witte is the pastor at Grace Lutheran Church.
You can contact him at email@example.com