As you read this, there is an abundance of trouble in this fallen world. Ukraine is under attack. Genocide is taking place in several countries, such as the persecution of the Rohingya in Myanmar and the attacks on the Nuer people in South Sudan. There are refugees, people afflicted by drug use, there is human trafficking. There are devastating wildfires in paradise. It’s a discouraging list. How do we react to such realities?
These kinds of trouble have been around pretty much since Cain killed Abel. The ravages of sin affect everyone, and although they say nothing is certain but death and taxes, I’d say experiencing trouble is also a pretty sure bet. How do we cope? What is our hope in the midst of such events?
The people of God were no strangers to trouble. From slavery in Egypt to captivity in Babylon they endured hardship and trouble of Biblical proportions. Granted, by ignoring the prophets and chasing after idols they brought much of it upon themselves, but the children of Israel have spent a lot of time dealing with oppression, disaster, and tragedy. The Psalms provide some clues about their mindset, and how they have been able to deal with such troubles.
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah.” (Psalm 46:1-3, NKJV)
Psalm 62:8, Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah
Psalm 91:1-2 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
Psalm 18:2 The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
Psalm 36:7 How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
Do Great Circumstances Alone Equal Blessing?
A closer look at this Psalm provides insight. Psalm 46 presupposes that there WILL be trouble. It is not a message based on a prosperity gospel, and does not assume that God’s blessing is in the ABSENCE of trouble. It takes comfort from God’s presence in the MIDST of trouble. I think many of us equate God’s blessing with ease and material comfort, and our world can be shattered by tragedy. When bad things happen we blame God. Our rational nature prompts us to question Him about what has happened.
While God often reveals His grace and goodness during hard times, trying to find the human logic behind tragedy can be a fruitless exercise. We may not ever see all ends, or find a reason for why something bad happened. We can, however, always find help when it does. Looking at trouble with a different perspective can help. The Apostle Paul said in 2 Corinthians 2:14: “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”
Before he was King, David endured significant affliction and persecution, yet he found comfort and courage by turning to his Creator. The Sons of Korah (who wrote Psalm 46) assume that trouble will come. Every one of us will encounter trials and tribulation. That’s a logical way to look at life, sometimes. However, this Psalmist is soothed by the fact that God provides strength and a place of spiritual refuge in the midst of physical tragedy. When trouble comes, he recommends that we seek strength and comfort in the spiritual world rather than in our own.
We are tempted to blame God for troubles, or curse Him for allowing them. But, if God is real, and if He does indeed love his children, doesn’t it make a lot more sense to turn TOWARDS the Father rather than AWAY from him? It may just be that blessing is not found in our being comfortable, but in HE, HIMSELF.
Trouble, Tragedy, and Refuge
The Psalmist not only finds comfort in God’s presence, he also finds courage. No matter what calamity falls upon him, he is able to react with confidence that God is with him and will provide help. Please don’t misunderstand this. This Psalm does not minimize tragedy or try to cover it with platitudes. It merely says that when bad things happen to us (and they will), we find strength and help in God. Though the physical world fail and fall, the spiritual world abides. When there is no other refuge, there is ONE refuge…
When the world gives you reasons to be afraid, the Lord gives you the one glorious illogical reason not to fear. Selah.
When Trouble Comes
Mountains fall to troubled seas, the very earth will shake;
But shouldn’t blessings come my way? There must be some mistake!
Troubles are inevitable, my child, as you can see:
My blessing is not stuff or things; the blessing, child, is ME.
When calamity’s bony finger stretches out its length,
Pointing straight at me with the affliction that he bringeth,
My God is my ever-present help, my refuge, and my strength.
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