God Our Ever-Present Strength

God Our Refuge  

God is our refuge and strength,
     an ever-present help in trouble. - Psalm 46:1

 

Father, in a distracted, fragmented, wandering world, You are here. Present. Fully present. Ever present. Exceedingly present with us.

 

Is there any greater gift You could give?

 

You hold our hands through each day, lifting us up when we don’t have the strength to stand, pulling us forward when we don’t have the strength to move, keeping us still when we don’t have the strength to stop.

 

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
     and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,

though its waters roar and foam
     and the mountains quake with their surging. - Psalm 46:2-3

 

There are so many things that are amiss in this world. Oh, how we wish that you would protect us from all the terrible things that could happen.

 

And yet,

 

You are our sanctuary when all else gives way. What are we afraid of?

 

The Lord Almighty is with us;
     the God of Jacob is our fortress. - Psalm 46:7

 

Almighty, You are more powerful than we can imagine. The strength that is with us is mightier than anything that could rise against us.

 

Come and see what the Lord has done,
     the desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease
     to the ends of the earth.
 He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
     he burns the shields with fire. - Psalm 46:8-9

 

You could stop fighting at the snap of a finger. How we pray you would do that now, Lord. Remind us of Your power. Turn people from standing in opposition to each other to kneeling in submission to You.

 

Do that in our world, and do that in our neighborhoods, and do that in our hearts.

 

Shatter our spears, break our bows, burn the shields of our own making, and let us find our protection in You.

 

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
     I will be exalted among the nations,
     I will be exalted in the earth.” - Psalm 46:10

 

We spend so much energy reaching for power. As if it is a resource that will run through our fingers if we do not hold it tight. Our arms are tired, Lord.

 

Help us hear your invitation to be still. To know that we are enough because You are enough.

 

If we are still, the world will not collapse on top of us. For You are beside us, holding the world’s weight on our behalf. We need only hold your hand.

 

The Lord Almighty is with us;
     the God of Jacob is our fortress. - Psalm 46:11

 

You are the God who wrestled Jacob. Who came down to touch humanity, showing both Your power and compassion.

 

We rest in the fortress of Your unfailing love.

 

Psalm 46 is one of my very favorites. In this post, I am doing publically what I have often done privately- using the words of a Psalm as inspiration for my prayers. Praying Scripture is a way to let the God-breathed words of the Bible breathe life into us and our relationship with Him. If you've never done that before, I encourage you to give it a try. This Psalm could be a great start.

 

walk through the psalmsWalk through the Psalms is a series working its way through the book of Psalms, one Psalm a week, one post a week, in order. It is grounded in the belief that as Psalms swirl through prayers of pain and praise, they paint a portrait of a life of faith. And, as with any walk, it is better with company; all are welcome to join. To learn more, read this.

Lord, Become for Me a Rocky Summit of Refuge

At first glance, a lot of the Psalms don’t apply to my life right now. So many Psalms are about a person who is in trouble. Someone is depressed, or being overtaken by enemies, or running away from trouble, and crying out to the Lord in search of rescue and relief.

My life? It doesn’t reflect this kind of anguish. Sure, there have been some difficult transitions in the last few months. But nothing close to persecution or seemingly insurmountable barriers reflected in many verses of the Psalms.

These differences might tempt me to pass over Psalm 31 and move on to Psalm 32. After all, I wouldn’t say, “my strength fails because of my affliction” (Psalm 31:10) or “I am the utter contempt of my neighbors” (Psalm 31:11) or “I am forgotten as though I were dead” (Psalm 31:12).

But then I look at what David is doing with those feelings. And there, I see a lesson I need to learn.

David looks to God to be his refuge.

When I need refuge, I often don’t run to God first. I seek protection against how people might perceive me by running towards clothes and make up. I retreat from the quiet boredom of loneliness by running towards social media. I shelter myself from self-doubt by running towards achievement at work.

I shelter and protect myself in all sorts of places besides the arms of my God.

Psalm 31 convicts me when it begins with the cry,

“In you, Lord, I have taken refuge” – Psalm 31:1

And expands on that with

“Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me.” – Psalm 31:2

In Hebrew, “be my rock of refuge” is literally, “become for me a rocky summit of refuge.”

That language reminds me of when I travelled to Machu Picchu. I cannot imagine the number of people who died building that rocky city on the top of a mountain. But the people thought it was worth the effort. Because there, at the top of the mountain, they were protected. The rocks provided them shelter from storms that might brew overhead. The mountaintop provided them the safety of the high place, a view of their enemies as they approached.

I wonder what it would look like if I ran to God as my rock of refuge. Not just when the big trials came, but all the time. What if I lived there, in God’s rocky city at the top of the hill.

Perhaps if my identity took refuge in who I am as God’s child, then I could see the enemy of comparison as it made its way on the path to my heart.

Perhaps if my longings found their shelter in God, then I could be protected from the effect of consumerism as it rained down its stuff into my life.

Perhaps if I ran to God as the refuge of my soul, then I could live with a sense of security and peace greater than what I feel now. And then maybe when the bigger enemies do come, and I feel the anguish of this Psalm, my journey to find refuge in the hands of God would only be an arm's length away.

Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me. Keep me free from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge. Into your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, Lord, my faithful God. Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord. – Psalm 31:3-5, 24

What could it look like for you if you made God your rock of refuge?

Walk through the Psalms is a series reflecting on the beautiful and timeless poetry found in the middle of the Bible. It is an intentional study of God’s Word, grounded in the belief that God gave us the Bible so we could meditate on it, whether that takes us through inspiring or frustrating territory.

walking on the ledge

It is time to leave. I gather my sons to exit the building and walk back to the car. I am in a hurry to get to the next building, to the next item on my to-do list, to the next thing on my schedule. But my son is not rushed; he wants to make the most of the journey. So he does not go directly toward the car. Instead, he walks toward the garden bed. He is not going there to admire the flowers, for sadly, it is a time of year when they are no longer in bloom. No, he is walking toward the wonder of… the ledge. The ledge- I see nothing spectacular in it. I see it as a structure built next to the garden to keep in the dirt. My son sees it as an opportunity for adventure- a chance to walk on a different path than the boring old sidewalk. It is a path that requires more from him- more balance, more dodging of obstacles, more risk of injury if he falls. But he knows, instinctually, that something which requires more from him will also give him more in return. He knows the ledge will give him a feeling of adventure, a sense of accomplishment, and a fresh perspective.

When I ask my son if he would walk on the ledge if I wasn’t there, he responds with nervous laughter. He may not need me to hold his hand anymore, but he does want to know that I am nearby. My presence gives him the security to take a risk.

God’s presence is meant to give me that same security.

Jesus describes himself as the Good Shepherd (John 10). He leads us to green pastures. But in order to get there, we have to leave the security of the pen. Following Jesus means taking the road less traveled. There may be parts of the journey that are dangerous. There may be parts that are rocky or difficult. But we are with the Shepherd. We need not fear.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. – Psalm 23:4

Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10). Our lives have purpose and meaning beyond our imagination. Our Father gives us gifts and asks us to use them. Jesus gives us transformation stories and asks us to share them. The Holy Spirit gives us guidance to make a change and asks us to trust Him. These are risky choices. But steps of faith are adventures worth taking.

I once heard Erwin McManus say, "Christ did not come simply to free us from death, but to free us from the fear of death... so that we can live a life worth living."

Go ahead. Walk on the ledge.

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