God: Our Refuge and Strength

I have to admit I am distressed as I read the daily reports of increased fires, floods, earthquakes, long extinct volcanoes coming to life, and the toxicity of our air quality.  Along with these natural disasters is the instability of world politics and an increase in tragedies such as the mass shootings, and other kinds of horrors which would have been unimaginable a few decades ago.  Whether or not these are the beginnings of the end times remains to be seen.  This kind of trouble is happening all around the world, and the cumulative effect is devastating.  My heart goes out to all those families throughout the world who have lost loved ones and/or all their belongings in these disasters, or whose freedom is being taken away by totalitarian governments, and whose future now seems so uncertain.  I am not here today to comment on the origins of these things ~ but just to comment that we all have access to a loving and caring Father on Whom to lean during these times, if only we choose to seek Him.  My concern is for all those who don’t know Him, and how they are missing the strength and comfort they could find in Him.  I cannot help but be reminded of Psalm 46:

God is our refuge and our strength,
an ever present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.

There is a river whose streams make glad
the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall.
God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
He lifts His voice, the earth melts.

Come and see what the Lord has done,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
He burns the shields with fire.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God”;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted on the earth.

The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

I am not an Old Testament scholar; I am sure there are many wonderful lessons to be learned from this song for the congregation.  However, right now it just gives me peace of mind to remember that no matter how terrible our circumstances, even if the earth beneath us should give way, and the mountains fall into the sea, or should there be any other disaster, man-made or God-made, God is sufficient.  He is still in control, over all circumstances, and is prepared to be our fortress and refuge.

When I have a tendency to panic because I am overwhelmed with some negative circumstance in my life (even those not as calamitous as fire or floods) I need to remind myself that God loves me and will not put on me more than I am able to bear in His strength.

I also need to remember that He is God.  He has instructed us to recognize His power and majesty: “Be still, and know that I am God.”  No further explanation needs to be given.  He is not a wimpy Santa Claus sitting up in heaven to be at the service of man, granting all our wishes and making us all rich.  He is GOD and it is our job to serve HIM. “I will be exalted among the nations!  I will be exalted on the earth.”  No matter what man thinks or does, no matter how much we assume our little human intellects have grasped the secrets of the universe, it is He who has created all of it and He knows it from the first moment of creation to the final last seconds of all humankind.

We often take that verse, “Be still, and know that I am God” to be a call for us to stop our hectic activity and meditate calmly on the majesty and holiness of God.  I am sure we can apply it that way.  However, in this context it seems to me that He might be telling us to stop our complaining and the attitude of arrogant self-importance which we humans often take about things we don’t completely understand. “Be still!” It may be more of a rebuke; telling us to stop our ant-like scurrying around and our demands that He make everything the way we want it.  We are to remember that He is God; the source of all power and wisdom and that He holds all things together by the word of His power.  “He lifts His voice, and the earth melts.”  To put it in today’s slang: In regard to mankind, He brought us into this world, and He can take us out.

For the believer, He is our refuge through all the disasters that life can offer: both the small everyday problems and the huge disasters which could threaten the life of the planet.  No matter how large the problem, He is more than sufficient.  He is still in complete control.  He may take us to His final goals for us through incomprehensible and rocky paths ~ but He always knows where we are going together.  That is why we are called to be people of faith: faith that He knows the way, faith that His will toward His children is always good, faith that through everything, He loves us unconditionally.

What is more, when we are afraid He is able to give us the strength to get through every crisis.  He leads us step by step, providing what we need day by day just as He provided the manna for the children of Israel in the desert so long ago.  “Lord, just get me through this hour”, we pray ~ and He does.  I don’t need to panic when the world around me seems to be on the verge of destruction.  If I feel despair when the details of my life seem to be overwhelming and I am afraid I won’t be able to cope, I can lean on the Lord, and He will bear me up.  Nothing is too hard for Him. (Matthew 19:26)

Ultimately, even death is not something that needs to be feared.  If we are His, then death is just a doorway to a new kind of existence ~ a better place ~ a place where all the darkness of earth will no longer exist.  In heaven we will be forever in the light of God’s holiness and love.

I am so glad that I know Him, and that because of the sacrificial work of Christ, I can face every crisis safe in the knowledge that He will be with me.  The soul is more important than things.  Bodies wear out and still the soul exists and reaches for God.  No matter how disastrous a situation, no matter how deep the pain, I never have to go through anything alone. Selah.

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