God is our refuge and strength,
always ready to help in times of trouble.
So we will not fear when earthquakes come
and the mountains crumble into the sea.
Let the oceans roar and foam.
Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge!
A river brings joy to the city of our God,
the sacred home of the Most High.
God dwells in that city; it cannot be destroyed.
From the very break of day, God will protect it.
The nations are in chaos, and their kingdoms crumble!
God’s voice thunders, and the earth melts!
The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us;
the God of Israel is our fortress. (Psalm 46)
As I read the above psalm, my mind immediately zeroes in on the contrasting words. Mountains crumble, waters surge, trouble, earth melting, kingdoms crumbling, and chaos; versus refuge, strength, joy, protect, sacred home, and help. The first set of words are life shattering events. Not the normal, everyday, stress filled hassles that weigh us down; but the heart stopping, fear inducing, tear filled, bring you to your knees gasping for breath types of events that in a single moment can wipe out everything that we have built, earned, grown, collected, or accomplished. The poetic words of this psalm really capture what it is like to live through tragedy. Imagine what it would be like to have mountain crumble around you and slide into the sea, or how it would feel to have our nation digress into utter chaos and anarchy. When tragedy strikes, the emotional despair that we feel can make it seem like the world really is ending. In contrast to these are the second set of words. Words that bring hope. Words that can drive away despair, darkness, and loneliness. God is our refuge and our strength. God is our fortress. God will overcome, despite mountains crumbling into the sea and nations turning into chaos.
We invest ourselves in what we do. It is a normal part of human nature. Whether it be our homes, careers, reputation, people, or family; whatever we invest ourselves in, we become emotional and spiritually attached to. The problem is that the world is a temporary place. A place that is corrupted by sin. A place that is slowly fading away and taking everything with it. So, when the things that we have invested ourselves into become damaged or taken away from us, naturally it will hurt. Depending on the depth that we are attached, it can be devastating. We can’t escape tragedy and pain. It is part if this world. If we stop investing ourselves into that which we value most, we stop being human. We are designed to love, to give of ourselves intimately. But we live in a world that makes that increasingly difficult and painful. That is why this psalm is so poignant. God does not promise to take the pain away. God does not promise to stop the world form decaying around us or remove the consequences of sin and human actions. But amid those tragedies, God brings comfort. God brings hope. God brings significance to our sufferings by God’s mere presence. In the city of God there is a river. A river of joy. This joy is both unstoppable and never ending. This joy contrasts with our present lives and world. This joy is not an absence of pain, feeling, hurt, or depression in our lives. But rather an understanding, an experience, a feeling, a truth that God far surpasses the things of this world. By getting to know God, we connect ourselves to this joy. By pushing God out of our lives (walking away from God or living for ourselves) all we do is face the world on our own without God’s help, guidance, love, and joy.