When she was a toddler, my niece preferred to stay far away from strangers. When people visited, she would swiftly disappear behind the curtains or hide under the dining table, hoping nobody would notice her. It was a childhood solution - running away from the seemingly daunting, uncomfortable situation of meeting “strangers.” But as the years pass, she is growing to be a confident young girl. She sometimes even debates with others about her perspective on various topics. With age comes experience, maturity, confidence, and resolve to face situations that occur in the normal course of life.
However, as a fully-grown mature adult, there are multiple times I have wished I could run away and hide from the rest of the world, like my little niece, wanting to stay away from the world’s judgments. I want to hide every time that I am embarrassed, afraid, hurt, criticized, ridiculed, competed against, when a loved one is angry at me, when I make mistakes, when I don’t look perfect or when I haven’t been able to accomplish what many others have done seemingly effortlessly.
In the creation story in Genesis, Adam and Eve hid from God among the trees of the garden (Gen 3:8) after they had disobeyed His command to not eat from the tree, causing the first sin. But the Lord did not ignore them or walk away leaving Adam and Eve to figure out the next steps. God deals with the situation in a difficult, confrontational conversation.
The Bible speaks about many other people who were on the run and hiding. Hagar was expelled from home along with her young son Ishmael into the desert. They ran out of water and Hagar hid her boy under the bushes and went far away sobbing, unable to bear seeing her child die in the parched desert (Gen 21:15-19). God speaks to Hagar to not be afraid, comforts her and shows her a well of water, due to which both the mother and the child live.
Jacob had to escape away to his uncle’s house in order to not be murdered by his angry brother Esau. On his way, where he stopped to rest for the night, God meets Jacob, speaks with him through a dream and blesses him (Gen 28:10-15).
When Moses was born, he had to be kept hidden for three months to protect him from Pharoah’s command to kill all Hebrew newborn male children (Ex 2:1-3). Although he grew up in the palace, Moses fled from Egypt to Midian out of fear for his life, as Pharaoh sought to kill him (Ex 2:15).
Although anointed as king by the prophet Samuel, David had to be on the run and hiding in caves and in the wilderness from Saul who was relentlessly pursuing him (I Samuel 23).
Jonah ran from the presence of God, not wanting to obey God’s command to prophecy against Nineveh. Instead, he boarded a ship that could take him to Tarshish, far away in the opposite direction (Jonah 1).
There are many more instances in the Bible of people having justifiable reasons to want to run away or hide. We also know that in that place of hiding, no matter what caused the running away, God shows Himself, sends His word or stirs an action. We could close our eyes to avoid situations or hide from the eyes of our adversaries, but we can’t hide from God.
In Psalm 139 David writes,
“Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me and your right hand shall hold me” (Psalm 139: 7-10).
Running away creates more stress, fear, anxiety and panic. So what do we do when all we feel like doing is disappearing into a deep dark vacuum?
Psalm 91 verses 1-4 encourages us to come running to the Lord and to take refuge in Him.
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust. Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers and under his wings you will find refuge. His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.”
Psalm 37: 39, 40 says,
“The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord; he is their stronghold in time of trouble. The Lord helps them and delivers them. He delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him.”
And in Proverbs 18:10 we read,
“The name of the Lord is a fortified tower, the righteous run to it and are safe”
Irrespective of how terrifying or irredeemable our situation may seem; we have a God who is calling us to take refuge and come hide in His presence. He came looking for us, eager to embrace and wrap us up in a giant-sized safety bubble of grace. He calls us to find our identity in Him and through Him, an identity that has made us children of the most intelligent, creative, loving and awesome father. An identity that gives us hope in despair, comfort in pain, acceptance in embarrassment, confidence in loss, and healing in hurt.
As He invites us, instead of running away from the situations in this world, let us run to God with all our messiness, just as we are, to be safe under His protective shelter.