My family used to have a dog who was terrified of thunderstorms. Upon hearing a loud clap of thunder, Woody would clamber up onto the couch and keep climbing until he lay right behind you on top of the back cushions.
The issue is that Woody was a fat golden retriever. It was sweet that he felt safe clinging close to us, but not particularly pleasant to have 35 kilos of dog wrapped around the back of your neck like a scarf.
Humans might be intelligent enough to know that a thunderstorm doesn’t pose an imminent threat, but we’re no strangers to scrambling for safety. What we run and cling to in times of trouble reveals a lot about our hearts.
Consider how this played out in Old Testament times. Before Joshua (Moses’ successor) died he gave final instructions to the leaders of the Israelites:
Therefore, be very strong to keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, turning aside from it neither to the right hand nor to the left…you shall cling to the Lord your God just as you have done to this day. (Joshua 23:6, 8)
This was about more than just loving God in their hearts. Clinging—or “holding fast” in the NIV—implies dependence and need. The Israelites faced fierce enemies, as well as the regular hardships that humans have always experienced. Where would they turn for comfort and security?
Joshua urges them to cling to the Lord. God has shown himself to be faithful by bringing Israel into the promised land. If they keep his covenant, he will never fail to fulfill all his promises to them.
But there is another option. The Israelites could choose disobedience. Despite God’s commands, they saw personal and economic benefits of living alongside other nations and intermarrying with them. In a world of warfare, it would have seemed strategic and sensible to form such alliances.
God warns them what will happen if they choose this course:
Be very careful, therefore, to love the Lord your God. For if you turn back and cling to the remnant of these nations remaining among you and make marriages with them, so that you associate with them and they with you, know for certain that the Lord your God will no longer drive out these nations before you, but they shall be a snare and a trap for you, a whip on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from off this good ground that the Lord your God has given you. (Joshua 23:11–13)
They will have temporary security at the cost of their relationship with the eternal God. The better choice—the only choice—is to cling to Christ.
Where do you turn when you hear the thunder? What’s your refuge when suffering and painful emotions assail you? You might run to the alluring comfort offered by food. You might turn inward and seek safety in your close family of friends. It’s not wrong to have that support, but our only true refuge is the living God. He has proven himself faithful time and time again.
God is the only one who actually has the power to protect us. It was touching that Woody ran straight to us when he was afraid. We loved him and would hug him, speak soothing words, and even let him stay on the couch when he wasn’t usually allowed up there. But we couldn’t stop the storm.
So let’s heed this exhortation today: keep choosing to cling to Christ. Turn away from the false comforts in the world and hold fast to the Lord. He alone has the power to calm the wind and the waves (Matthew 8: 26).