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.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved; God will help it when the morning dawns
The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.
Come, behold the works of the Lord ; see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.”
The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. ~Psalm 46
As yesterday unfolded, many of us were transfixed by the images on our screens, as we watched actions not seen since the British entered and burned the White House and Library of Congress during the War of 1812. Two improvised explosive devices were found on the Capitol grounds, as those carrying the flag of the Confederacy and sporting shirts that said “Camp Auschwitz” and “Civil War, January 6, 2021” roamed the halls of Congress, broke into both the House and Senate chambers, vandalized offices, and enjoyed taking selfies. For hours.
There are all kinds of things that could be and will be said about this over the months and years to come. But we need to go into those difficult discussions prepared. While the analysis of the situation might be technically correct, we won’t come to a place of healing if we enter with rage or fear, even though both of those responses are fully justified. Those emotions produce poor decisions; we experienced the consequences of them yesterday. We need to quiet the waters for the deep wisdom of our hearts to emerge.
Last night, as the events of the day were swarming my mind and heart, I decided to take a shower to settle my thoughts. Almost immediately, Martin Luther’s hymn, “A Mighty Fortress,” was playing in my head. But as I recalled the verses, I became uncomfortable. The day had already been too war-like; I wasn’t up for singing, “Were not the right man on our side” and all the verses about winning battles. As I sang it in my head, I remembered that some of those who stormed the Capitol yesterday carried signs that said “Jesus saves” or carried large Bibles. Would that hymn bring them any pangs of conscience? or would it reinforce their misguided mission? I put the hymn aside.
But then I remembered that Luther based “A Mighty Fortress” on Psalm 46. I have quoted it in full above, and every verse speaks to this moment. God does not boast here of winning battles but of ending wars entirely–breaking the bow, shattering the spear, melting the shields–so that the day envisioned by Isaiah might come to pass when “they will not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain.” (Is. 11:9)
Throughout the Psalm we are pointed to the turmoil and danger of the world but also God’s presence in it. God is not far off pulling the strings; God is a “very present help.” God is “in the midst of the city.” We are told not to fear, not because our fears are unfounded–the very earth itself might be changing and the mountains shaking in the heart of the sea. We are told not to fear because God is in the midst of the city; because the Lord of hosts is with us as a very present help in trouble.
The way to access that refuge is down in verse 10: “Be still” so that you may know with your mind what you already know in your heart. You may not have the luxury of being still for long. When we’re living through multiple crises at once, the demands are relentless. Everything is harder and more stressful; the waters roar and foam in both our inner and outer lives. But as the storms rage around us; though the “nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter” we are assured of a refuge nearby–a very present help in our trouble.
So as you watch and rage; as you find yourself anxious and afraid; as you wonder with increasing desperation, “But what can we do?” know that I’m right there with you. All of those feelings and more are normal in times like these. But at least once during each day, however briefly, stop. Be still. Take a deep breath and know that God is present, and a refuge is as near as your breathing. God is right there in the midst of the tottering, besieged city. If we are still, even if only for the length of a shower, we can find that refuge and enter.
Hold onto each other; pray for each other; love each other.