God Is My Refuge

JOSH IRAQ

With Memorial Day Weekend upon us I wanted to share an article I wrote for Ransom.tv about a year ago. May we never forget the soldiers that keep us free and most importantly that God is sovereign even in our darkest hours. This is part of my story.

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.”
– Psalm 91:1-2

Having grown up in church, I’ve heard these two verses for much of my life. Admitting to you that “God is my refuge” would have come naturally. Although I could recite these words, it would take me many years to get a grasp on what it means to say of the LORD, ‘my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’

These same words would be reinforced in me later in life when I would see “Psalm 91″ crudely written at the close of my older brother’s letters from a war zone half a world away. Sometimes I would look up the verse he closed with, other times read right over it. There are not many ‘more perfect’ verses to read in the Bible when facing a literal war than these. I can read this and be encouraged, enlightened, motivated and sure. But do I live like I believe it? Do I REALLY put my trust in Him? Is he really my refuge, my fortress, my God?

Unbeknownst to me, my brother Josh would play a huge role in teaching me what this truly meant far beyond an encouraging way to sign his letters. This promise in the Psalms would become the very rock that I clung to. After nearly four months on the ground in Iraq, my brother would be the victim of an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) and would join the growing list of those who gave it their all in uniform. To add to the tragedy of losing such a great man of God, leader of many, brother, friend, husband and son – he would be suddenly taken from this earth on my Mother’s 50th birthday. In life, we all have events that serve as a turning point, a place by which we tell time. For me, everything happened either before Josh was killed or after. A hinge, if you will. My life had forever changed with one devastating phone call.

In the days after the news hit our shore, I began to experience the psalmist’s words in a new way. I had arrived at a point that I literally did not know what the next hour would hold, much less the next day or week. The pain was physical, the sleep impossible and the loss real. My grief became the shirt I put on in the morning and the blanket that I wrapped myself in at night. Would this always define me?

In the still of those lonely nights spent sobbing in bed I was constantly reminded of Psalm 91. At this point it wasn’t committed to memory, but it kept popping up everywhere I looked. I would see it as I reread his letters to me, find it on cards from those grieving along side us and see it again as we continued to receive letters from him even weeks after his death. I finally resigned myself to look it up and reread what I thought I knew. I was amazed when I came to verses 14-16, the close of this beautiful Psalm:

“Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; 
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him; 
I will be with him in trouble, 
I will deliver him and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him 
and show him my salvation.” – Psalm 91:14-16

These words still ring in my ears almost 7 years later. Upon reading this anew, I could finally grasp the promise that the psalmist penned thousands of years ago. God promises His rescue to those He loves! It was immediately relevant to my grief and despair. I will never forget the sweet taste of the beginning of my understanding of God’s provision. I was jolted awake out of my numb grief stricken state by the fact that He had truly delivered Josh in that desert so far from home. Not only that, but He had also delivered me, Josh’s scared little brother in Nashville, TN. He met me in this darkest of hours. A moment that is forever stamped in my mind, I saw one of God’s greatest attributes – His sovereignty. This will forever be the song in my heart as I continue to struggle, grieve and wrongly forget that God is my fortress, my refuge and my deliverance in trouble.

Charles Spurgeon eloquently said, “When you are so weak that you cannot do much more than cry, you coin diamonds with both your eyes.The sweetest prayers God ever hears are the groans and sighs of those who have no hope in anything but his love.”

In hindsight, I can say that the groans and sighs Spurgeon describes here as ‘those who have no hope in anything but his love’ is exactly where God would most like to meet us. Not because He desires us to hurt or grieve, but because we can see His glory so clearly when all else is stripped away. In one instant on that hot day in July of 2003, my thoughts went from where I was going to eat that day to ‘God, I cannot make it without you giving me Your strength.’ Is there a better place to be than finding refuge ‘under His wings’ (vs 4)? I dare say, there is not.

And this is my challenge to you: Allow the living God of the Bible to rescue, protect and deliver you. Whether it be in your moment of deep despair, a literal war zone or the greatest day of your life. For we must never forget what Paul said to the Romans: “For I consider that the sufferings at this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18).

by Milam Byers


5 Responses

  • Jen G wrote on May 28, 2011

    Milam, such beautiful words. Thanks for sharing them. You carry your brother's candle still today, and by God's grace you hold it high where the rest of the world can see it. We are still learning from his life. I am sure this is an honor he could never have anticipated before he leapt into Abba's arms.


  • Carl wrote on May 30, 2011

    Hi Milam, Your brother's life and story continues to reach and inspire us. I remember hearing the news years ago...around the time of the Astronomy album. I think Josh was even featured in a wonderful book highlighting a handful of soldiers and their letters home?? I remember seeing that a few years back - as I stood at a Borders bookstore and read about your brother. Anyway, I am glad I was able to read this today...Thank you for sharing with us. Happy Memorial Day to you and your family!


  • admin wrote on May 30, 2011

    Thank you for your kind words Carl. LIFE & NY TIMES put out the Last Letters Home book and HBO produced the documentary. It was very well done. You can stream the whole thing here: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=7012492592414439900# Josh's part of the story begins around 22min. Thank you for honoring my bro, it means a lot. Milam


  • Patrick Swift wrote on May 31, 2011

    Milam, Awesome insight won by trial by fire. I only knew Josh a little but I'll never forget him. I know he is proud of you and your whole family and how ya'll have responded since his death. Just wanted to let you know that I think about you alot and am keeping you in prayer. Patrick


  • Gloris Harris wrote on May 13, 2013

    This is beautiful and so encouraging!! God Bless you for sharing this! The Lord is our Refuge, safehaven, strong tower, fortess, our redeemer and so much more!! As I mature in this walk with God, I have relize He allowed things to happen to draw us near to Him, and to become stronger in this walk with Him. In through your trial God has really proven himself once again to the Me!! God Bless you and Your Family!!



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