You know, friends, sometimes life is difficult. Family can involve real challenges; people you care about deeply are out of range when they need support and guidance; work responsibilities can be overwhelming; grandchildren are too far away to hug and encourage; people sometimes are unreasonable; global threats spread with exponential inevitability, be it illness or fear, and when the fragile knife-edge of confidence that holds it all together is compromised it is easy to feel as if the foundation of what holds us in place is undone too.
Most of all, we feel this sense of powerlessness to do what needs to be done or change what needs to be changed and we face days sometimes that threaten to spin relentlessly toward our fears and confirm our anxieties.
Welcome to 2020, where the new normal is unsettling and we are unsettled too.
“Thanks a lot, Derek,” I hear you saying. “What made you think we needed to read that today!”
I hear you, and this – in real time having written my opening – is where Psalm 46 comes to mind. Here are the first few verses:
God is our refuge and strength, a help always near in times of great trouble. That’s why we won’t be afraid when the world falls apart, when the mountains crumble into the center of the sea, when its waters roar and rage, when the mountains shake because of its surging waves.
There is a river whose streams gladden God’s city, the holiest dwelling of the Most High. God is in that city. It will never crumble. God will help it when morning dawns. Nations roar; kingdoms crumble. God utters his voice; the earth melts. The Lord of heavenly forces is with us! The God of Jacob is our place of safety.
The demand for “immediacy” and the need for perspective:
The word that comes to mind when I read this Psalm is “perspective.” And if ever we need a good dose of perspective it is in this climate – global, cultural, spiritual, political. There is a lot of demand for immediacy in the way we expect our lives to go, we need (or we believe we need) to see situations resolved right away. But reality seldom looks like that.
Don’t misunderstand me, I really want to see everything that is causing me anxiety to quickly come to a positive resolution. I do not like to carry burdens around, to wake up in the morning with something gnawing at my gut, to wonder with any degree of uncertainty.
But at the same time I have to understand that time is not only the great healer, it is also a necessary ingredient of effective change.
So what do I do in the meanwhile? How do we move from paralysis to peace, from fear to fruition, and from trouble to triumph?
The answer is belief. The deliberate, intentional choice to believe. The grasping and then the holding on to faith. Here is how the Psalmist concludes his song:
“That’s enough! (Be still!) Now know that I am God!
I am exalted among all nations; I am exalted throughout the world!”
The Lord of heavenly forces is with us!
The God of Jacob is our place of safety.
I can do this. I can stand with confidence before God. I can learn to trust.