The last few days I have been searching for a way to reframe a very challenging time. I’ve been looking for the upside to all of this. Today I want to reflect with you on Psalm 46. Hear the first three verses:
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
3 though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult.
I don’t know about you, but there are times when I fear. There are times when I look at all that is going on in the world and feel so helpless. There are times I feel like the mountains are shaking. Sometimes I’m able to remember God is my refuge and strength. Sometimes I find that knowledge gives me hope and peace in the midst of turmoil, other times it’s harder. The psalmist continues:
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved;
God will help it when the morning dawns.
6 The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.
Amid the uproar of COVID 19 and the political upheaval and accusations in places of leadership, it can be hard to hear God’s voice. It certainly doesn’t seem like those in power are going to be quiet long enough to hear God’s voice. If they can’t hear the scientists and medical doctors who are in the room with them, how are they going to hear God?
Yet still, for the psalmist there is hope, there is always hope:
8 Come, behold the works of the Lord;
see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth.”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.[d]Selah
We forget the power of God. It’s hard to remember that God is with us. In a world that is focused on doing, it can be challenging to be still long enough to see God’s hand at work around us. Perhaps the most significant verse in this psalm is verse 10: Be still and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.
If we want to experience God’s presence, if we want to claim God as our strength and our refuge, we need to be still. We not only need to be still, we need to be silent, and silence all the distractions around us. One of the challenges we face as a society is that with computers, smart phones, and the internet, we are always accessible.
One of the hardest parts of this pandemic is that we are unable to do the things we normally do. We don’t know how to sit at home and just be. Psalm 46 talks about God being a refuge and strength in times of trouble. It talks about how we don’t need to fear when the whole world is falling apart around us. It talks about the power of God to stop wars.
So why don’t we experience that peace? Why are we afraid? Why is this so hard for us? We have forgotten how to be still. “Be still and know that I am God.” We have forgotten God’s power. We have forgotten how to let God be God. This time of forced isolation is also an opportunity. It is a time to stop doing and make use of the time to just be. “Be still and known that I am God.” Set aside the electronics. Sit comfortably. Breathe deeply. As you breathe in, remind yourself, “Be still,” as you breathe out, “and know that I am God.” Let go of your cares and concerns. Let go of your desire to do. Let go of your desire to know. Let go of the distractions around you. Let go of your desire to be in control. Sit. Be. Know. God is still God. God will still win. I knew a woman who had a challenging life. She was caregiver for a loved one, and he could be very challenging. Every day when she sat down to pray, she would imagine herself climbing into God’s lap to sit, to rest, to talk, sometimes to complain, and always to be comforted. Be still and know that I am God. Be still. Be. During this time of staying home and staying safe, we have an opportunity to know God. We have an opportunity to set aside the distractions and just be in God’s presence. We have an opportunity to remember we are loved for who we are, not for what we do. We have an opportunity to climb into God’s lap and claim God as our refuge and strength. We have an opportunity to just be. Be still and know that I am God. Be still and know. Be still. Be.
Let us pray
Loving God we ask you to help us see the gifts in these times of uncertainty. Help us to set aside our need to do and be in control and just rest and be with you. Teach us how to quiet not only the world around us, but our own thoughts and fears. Give us the faith and the patience to just be with you, that you might feed and comfort us.
We give you thanks for all the people who are taking responsibility during this uncertain time and serving. We thank you for medical personnel and warehouse workers, for truck drivers and child care workers. We thank you for the ability to keep in touch with one another through our electronic devices.
We pray for those who are living in fear. We pray for those who are overworked. We pray for those who are unemployed, and don’t know how they will buy food or pay rent. We pray for the sick and the grieving. We lift up those who are charged with making difficult decisions. We pray that you will help us learn the lessons you can teach us through this time.
We pray in the name of Christ, who regularly took time away for prayer. Amen.