“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.” Psalm 46:1-3
Looking at the photos and video from the earthquake and tsunami in Japan – I wonder how anyone could have survived. And for the survivors, I wonder what it was like with buildings shaking and stuff flying around and thirty foot waves of water with debris coming at you…
You may not have been in earthquake but , raise your hand if you’ve had your share of earth changing, mountain-shaking, water-roaring and foaming, mountain-tumult-trembling times in 2010 and already in 2011. Maybe all this didn’t happen recently but certainly we have all had years and/or seasons like that. How did we (or they) or are we getting through it?
Sometimes when you and I look back, there appears to be no logical explanation as to how we survived the tumult and shaking.
But I think I may have found a clue.
Listen to this again, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble… (Psalm 46:1).” First, as you may know, there are many words for “God” in the Old Testament. For example, Yahweh, which translates roughly as “I am” is thought of as God’s “name.” But the word used in Hebrew here in Psalm 46:1 could be considered “Big God” – it is “Elohim” and it is the same word used in Genesis when God is creating all things.
So when we are talking about God being a “refuge and strength” we are talking about NFL lineman size or bodyguard strength.
And speaking of refuge – the word for refuge in Psalm 46 has the meaning of shelter as well as “the person to whom one flees.” Where do we go when we need shelter or help?
And how about this “very present help in trouble.” The word and meaning for present is “found, encountered and recognizable” according to a Bible resource.
So when we add very – “very found, very encountered, very recognizable” like you just stumble or crash into it – you can’t miss it. Help? The word in Psalm 46 for help means has the same root as “helper or help meet.” Sound familiar? You are correct…Genesis 2:18 in which God looks at Adam and says something like, “This guy shouldn’t be alone, he needs a helper or help meet.” Same root in Genesis 2:18 as in Psalm 46:1.
So, we’ve got Psalm 46:1 telling us that when we are in trouble, when we the world is crashing down around us – God’s presence is awesome and huge like a shelter; it is as clear, visible and real as this screen in front of you; and it is as near and intimate as a spouse’s closeness. I want some of that!
And I have experienced it. It was that comforting and particular and intimate as Psalm 46:1 says – I will testify! I sometimes miss it, but I don’t think I want to volunteer to be in the position of the tumult and mountain trembling.
But the truth is you and I will be there again if we aren’t there already today. It just seems like we are much more aware of it when the mountains are shaking and the waves are roaring.
How about you – want some very present help as well as a refuge and strength? How about the people in Japan? And it is ours and theirs; and it is real thanks to God being fully present in this world through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.
- Have you ever experienced God’s “very present help in trouble?” What was it like?
- Are the mountains trembling in your world? What is going on?
- How are you going to survive it?
- How does this description of God sound? Does it confirm or seem different from your mind’s image of God? Why?
Rev. Christopher B. Wolf
Christopher B. Wolf is pastor of First Reformed Church of Saddle Brook, New Jersey. He is the author of Giving Faith a Second Chance: Restarts, Mulligans and Do-Overs (2007) and the forthcoming, With You: Every Step of the Way (2011).
“It is a matter of sharing and bearing the pain and puzzlement of the world so that the crucified love of God in Christ may be brought to bear healingly upon the world at exactly that point.” N.T. Wright