Meditations for Troubled Times
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)
The Psalmist here gives us a memorable statement about our God. He is a very present help in trouble. But in the original, this phrase reads quite differently: A help in tight places or distresses, exceedingly he has been found. What does this mean? Let me open up this phrase by pointing you to a crisis facing Judah in 2 Chronicles 15.
Asa is fresh off a victory in which the LORD routed the Ethiopians. However, Asa must understand Yahweh is not with him because Asa presumes his presence. “The LORD is with you while you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you” (2 Chronicles 15:2).
This is a necessary warning considering the state of Israel’s faith in Asa’s days, “For a long time Israel was without the true God, and without a teaching priest and without law” (2 Chronicles 15:3). Obviously, things are not good. The land is overrun with practical atheism and idolatry, a defunct priesthood, and lawlessness. This is a distressing situation, one where the LORD may turn them over to judgment.
So, what did Asa and the people do in this tight place? “But when in their distress they turned to the LORD, the God of Israel, and sought him, and he was found by them”—or better, “he let them find him” (2 Chronicles 15:4). What a beautiful expression! God doesn’t hide from those who seek him.
“In distresses” can be various situations in life when your world is coming unglued, when you are being squeezed or pressed or pinched with trouble. Maybe your body is racked with cancer, disease, or simply failing. Maybe your family is overrun with crises: business difficulties, economic burdens, or children who will not heed the gospel of Christ. Maybe your future is uncertain because of an epidemic. The Psalmist is saying that, in these very moments, your mighty God will be found by you.
Therefore, we might say that, when trouble comes, our God is very easy to find. But, in a sense, is this thought a strange thought? Isn’t God everywhere? Of course, it’s true that God is everywhere. The Bible is very clear about that he fills heaven and earth (Jeremiah 23:24). You can’t escape him (Psalm 139). In him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28).
Yet, in our troubles, we long for the reassurance of the special nearness, the help of our Father to save us, to comfort us, and to nurse our broken hearts. “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). He’s like a Father who has compassion on his children. So, just like you want to climb up in daddy’s arms when you are scared, you want to run to your heavenly Father in distress.
And why is he found by you? Because of who he is! He is a help: “There is none like the God, O Jeshurun, who rides through the heavens to your help” (Deuteronomy 33:26). Behold, the great God who humbles himself to pay attention to you, to run swiftly to assist you, to give you seasonable help in your need. This eternal God puts his everlasting arms underneath you. What a God!
Traumatic circumstances may come upon you and crushing trouble may invade your existence but look to the unchangeable God as your keeper. He’s an indestructible defense, your refuge. He’s a warrior to conquer with the resources to empower, your strength. And he’s exceedingly findable, a present help in your trouble.