Almost a year ago at the very beginning of the pandemic I found real strength and inspiration from Psalm 46. I remember sharing my thoughts and reflections from the first 3 verses of the Psalm.
God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in
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
I thought I’d return to it and remind myself again of the great truths it contains and see if I still believe it a year on! Looking at it again I realise that I do. The Psalm was written by the ‘sons of Korah’ – the temple musicians of their day: so effectively a worship song to encourage the whole community. It is a Psalm that speaks of a world catastrophe – the earth giving way, the mountains falling into the heart of the sea, the waters foaming and surging. That paints rather a good visual picture of all that’s been going on this last year. It is a metaphor we can understand!
So in the midst of deep uncertainties what does our worship leader here, our psalmist, our song-writer urge us to do? Well vs 1 is emphatic – be reminded of who God is and let the truth of that strengthen our heart and souls, ‘God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble’. What I love about this verse is that ‘refuge’ and ‘strength’ emphasise two different things – a refuge shields us in danger; strength empowers us in weakness. That was so helpful to me a year ago and it still is! I am living more easily with the threat of danger all around me than I was a year ago. I guess I’ve got more used to social-distancing, hand sanitizer and face masks – and I’ve just been invited for my first jab – but I still feel a sense of weakness and despondency in the face of it. However, over this last year, I’ve also found moments of real spiritual strength and stamina that have at times quite surprised me. The Lord has proved true to his word. He really is here to shield us and strengthen us. And this is unconditional. It does not say that God will help you if you get into a strong refuge. It says he is that refuge. God is, and always will be, a stronghold that no worldwide illness or pandemic can destroy. One year on his reign and rule still remains unshaken, and his presence with us will always remain, an ever-present/always their help in trouble. In fact it will still be like that one thousand years from now! God is rock solid and his character will never change.
You see there is an obvious consequence for knowing God and his character deeply and casting ourselves wholly into his care. It means ‘we will not fear’. Now a year on I’m still not fool enough to say that moments of fear and anxiety and uncertainty will not attack us at points. I actually think that coming out of lockdown can be more stressful than going into it in some ways and we will be dealing with those emotions over the coming weeks. However, I am still bold enough to say that as we continue to hold on to God and to understand that he is still holding on to us more tightly than we will ever know we will continue to feel and experience our worry and anxiety ebbing away. One year on, friends, we are still in very safe hands. Yes, he truly is our refuge and strength. My experience has been that I believe that ever more fully and firmly as I look back over a very disrupted, disjointed, sad and scary year. As we emerge into a new dawn may we find our trust in God more sure and our hope in him more certain. As the well-known hymn says – and it buzzed around in my head for days last March – ‘We rest on thee our shield and our defender, we go not forth alone against the foe; strong in thy strength, safe in they keeping tender, we rest on Thee, and in Thy name we go’. Indeed we do. Amen to that!
Every Blessing, James