The Best Fort Ever!
“But the Lord has become my fortress, and my God the rock in whom I take refuge.” (Psalm 94:22, NIV84)
One year, when I was a boy, a bad tornado was approaching our home in suburban Chicago. I was watching the weather reports on TV with my parents and younger sisters. This was something we were used to doing in the spring or summer.
But I realized that this time was different when my Dad suddenly exclaimed, “We’re going down to the basement for shelter. Quick! Everyone open up a window and grab a flashlight!”
Each of my parents picked up one of my baby twin brothers and we all made our way downstairs into the basement.
It was scary and exciting at the same time. All seven of us huddled together in the basement, listening to radio reports on the tornado. I asked my dad what would happen if the tornado hit our house and he reassured me, “It probably won’t hit our house, but if it did we’d be safe down here.”
My mom piped in, “It won’t hit our house! In Jesus’ name, it won’t hit our house! I’m praying!”
The tornado actually touched down near our house but it didn’t do any damage. We were safe in the basement!
Building Forts in the Basement
After that, the basement took on greater meaning to me. I loved to go down there. On a hot day, it was cool and damp. On a day when I was bored, it was full of old treasures in boxes to explore. If my sisters and their friends were bothering me, I could go down there where it was quiet to be alone.
But my favorite thing to do when I was a boy was to make forts. I recruited my sisters to join me in this. I got to be the building superintendent, telling them what to do to erect our fort! We used whatever we could find in the basement. We’d find pieces of wood, old chairs, and big boxes for the walls. Then we used bed sheets and towels for the roof.
We were safe in our fort. Safe from the tornado. Safe from “bad guys,” including the communists. (In those days we were afraid that armies from Russia might invade America and try to take us over.)
We’d play in our fort too. I’d bring my GI Joe’s and my sisters would bring their Barbies. But the most fun part was improving on our forts — making them bigger and adding special rooms. One time, our mom even let us bring all the high-back dining room chairs into the basement! It was the best fort ever!
The Lord is our Fort
David, the Psalmist, knew all about finding refuge in forts. His forts were the thousands of caves throughout the wilderness of Israel (see Psalms 57 and 142). Many times he found a cave to hide in when enemies were trying to kill him. He wasn’t just hiding in a cave — he was hiding in the Lord!
“The Lord is our fort” is a good way of wording a frequent prayer of the Psalmist. Ninety times he refers to the Lord as his fortress (or similar words used to refer to the same idea: refuge, shelter, rock, or hiding place.) Nine times he speaks of finding safety “under the wing” of the Lord or “in his shadow.” That’s almost 100 times out of 150 Psalms that the Psalmist speaks of finding refuge in the Lord.
That’s what my sisters and I were doing in the basement: finding refuge in the Lord who answered my mom’s prayers and kept us safe from the tornado.
The best thing about this Fort is that we don’t need to go down to the basement and build it. We don’t need to wait until we get to heaven. Wherever we are, no matter what problems we face or what hardships may befall us, even if we’re injured or dying, we can be in “the secret place” of prayer with Jesus and the Father, finding refuge in the Lord and his Kingdom of the Heavens in our midst (Psalm 91:1; Matthew 4:17, Matthew 6:4, Matthew 6:6, Matthew 6:18).
Nehemiah 4:16-18 16From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah 17who were building the wall. Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, 18and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked. But the man who sounded the trumpet stayed with me.
The enemies of Judah were furious over the wall being built. The remnant had worked hard, and the wall was half finished. The leaders of their enemies began to insult their work in range of their hearing to discourage them. When the enemy insults you, know that he is afraid at the work being done through you. About the time they became tired and discouraged from the insults and by the massive amount of rubble to be moved, the enemy began to plan an attack. The enemy often attacks when we are physically weary and discouraged. He watches for the weakest moment. But the Jews got wind of the plot.
Nehemiah had half of the men guard the other workers. The ones who hauled the materials had a weapon in one hand and worked with the other. The builders had their weapons handy. They devised a plan to rush to the aid of any place where the trumpet was blown. From the crack of dawn until it was too dark to work, they built and watched for the enemy. When the enemies found their plan was discovered, they gave up on the idea of an attack.
We are building too. We are laborers for the Kingdom of God. Some of us haul material and some of us stand guard, but all of us need to have our sword at our side. We need the Word of God in our hands ready for the battle. The enemy will try to discourage and insult you because he is the Accuser of the brethren. That is the time to take heart. He is attacking because he sees the good work done through you. If you are a laborer on the wall, get a brother to cover your back and watch for you in prayer. Listen for the trumpet call so that you can help your brothers that are being attacked. They may be working on a different section of the wall, but remember it is all a part of the same wall.
Encouragement: Before we know it, every stone will be in place and the New Jerusalem will descend.
By: Sarah Phillips, crosswalk.com
“I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. – Philippians 4:12-13
“For a long time I have not belonged to myself since I delivered myself totally to Jesus, and He is therefore free to do with me as He pleases.” ~ St. Therese of Lisieux
Do you have unrealized desires? They have a way of burning up our insides, don’t they? Perhaps you wish to be married, but year after year remain single. Or you wish for children, but remain childless. Or maybe you want to write books, but never make any headway.
Confusion and despair over unrealized desires feel the most intense when they seem natural and God-honoring. Doesn’t the Lord want me to be married? Didn’t He place in me this desire to be a pastor? Didn’t God give me these gifts? So why do all the doors remain closed?
I’ve been noticing a theme lately in the stories of revered Christian heroes. Most of them had personal desires that were put on hold or even went completely unfulfilled – at least from the outside observer’s perspective. Some of these desires seemed especially holy.
Take St. Martin of Tours for example. From an early age, this Christian convert’s sole desire was to be a monk. But the laws in 4th century Rome required him be a soldier – an occupation that did not suite him well. Even after the military finally released Martin, his plan to dedicate his life to solitary prayer never played out as he hoped. Martin’s unique spiritual wisdom drew crowds to him and ultimately, the beloved monk was ordained a Bishop against his wishes.
St. Therese of Lisieux is another example. This French beauty from the 19th century longed to be a Carmelite nun and a missionary. While Therese’s first desire came true at the early age of 15, her second never did. At 22, tuberculosis limited her to her French convent.
Why does God allow some desires to go unfulfilled? There’s no simple answer to that question, however, I think it’s fair to say that when good desires lay dormant, God does important work through us that might not otherwise have been possible. Paul articulates this when he is torn between two holy desires: a desire for heaven and a desire to continue to build up the Church on earth. Through eyes of faith, he sees how God can work through both outcomes.
I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith Philippians 1:23-25
The same peace we see in Paul can be found in the stories of countless Christians who set their personal preferences aside.
In her autobiography Story of a Soul, St. Therese reflected, “God cannot inspire unrealizable desires. I can, then, in spite of my littleness aspire to holiness.” Therese recognized that her earthly desires really boiled down to a desire for God, and while her personal limitations frustrated her, they did not limit God’s work in her life. Therese spent her remaining two years on earth “in the mission fields” by praying for and corresponding with missionary priests who drew much strength from her support.
St. Martin of Tours also accepted God’s calling with peace in his heart. He made an excellent Bishop in spite of his introverted ways. The key to his contentment? His love for God enabled him to love needy souls more than his solitary lifestyle.
While it’s hard to accept that our personal desires sometimes have to be put on hold, it’s also incredibly freeing. I think if you had a chance to speak with Paul, Therese, or Martin they’d all agree that life is much more fulfilling when the Creator of the Universe is in control instead of our little selves. What desires can you hand over to Him today?
Intersecting Faith & Life: What dreams have been put on hold in your life? Think of ways God has worked for good in your waiting. Write down one (or more) blessings you may not have received had your original dreams come true.