Meditations for Troubled Times
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.” (Psalm 46:1-3)
The language in verses 2-3, while figurative, looks back to day three of creation. Then the mountains rose, and the valleys sank down at the word of God. On that day, God set a boundary for the seas that they may not pass, so they would not return and cover the earth. This is the language of Psalm 104:9.
However, what Psalm 46 describes is the complete reversal of day three of creation. The great mountains go right back into the heart of the sea. Mountains are powerful word-pictures of what is stable and constant. Indeed, many of the images related to the word “refuge,” like “fortress” and “stronghold,” are associated with phrases that mean “summit” or “high.”
Yet these seemingly immoveable mountains, which offer protection, will give way and fall into the sea. The sea is a symbol for what is restless and menacing. It’s as if the world is being unmade. We’ve all seen the devastating effects of a tornado, how it rips houses from their foundations, twists and tangles trees, shattering them like toothpicks, and picks up cars and hurls them through the air.
But what the Psalmist depicts is an earthquake; that is, when the ground under your feet is entirely altered. It changes. It gives way. The whole landscape is no more. Imagine a whole mountain crumbling into the water and making a violent splash. Imagine the tsunami produced by an earthquake that would crumble mountains.
This is an unsettling image because we’ve seen the footage of these kinds of calamities, though not on this scale. We’ve watched the horror of it all and its unbelievable devastation and heartbreak. However, the Psalmist is saying with firm resolve, even if this should happen, even if the whole world should fall to pieces, we will not fear.
Why will we not fear? Because of who our God is—our refuge and strength, our very present help in trouble! Do you see how a view of God changes everything? The Psalmist didn’t start by telling you the world is falling apart. He started by telling you who God is.
For when you have eyes that, by faith, see your unconquerable Refuge, your strong Defender, and your Help who is always near, there’s never a situation to fear. This is the God who numbers your hairs, who counts your tears, who knows the way you take, who ordained your days before there was yet one of them.
Nothing surprises him. He’s not threatened or overwhelmed. So, if he guards you, helps you, and defends you, then you can be assured all will be well. Brethren, walk by faith and not by sight. Look at your God. Keep your eyes lifted up. He is sovereign, wise, and good, and his power is exercised for the welfare of his people.
Are you resting your soul in these truths? Are you perpetually preaching these truths to your unstable heart? Are you running to the Word to stay focused on your God? And are you crying out to Jesus for mercy and grace to help in time of need? O beloved, let us keep our eyes on our God and not fear no matter what change or difficulty may come in this world. Indeed, when it comes—for inevitably it will in a world under the curse—it is simply another opportunity for us to learn to rest in the God who never fails us! May our hope be in him!