I was at the home of a friend when the winds came, bending trees low to the ground and howling through the cracks, shaking the old house to its foundation. A large branch hit the house with a thud. A vase fell to the floor. My friend and I ran for the basement. Refuge!
I have seldom needed a real refuge in my life, having lived in times of peace and places of security. So when I read, in Psalm 46, “God is our refuge,” to personalize it I usually think of physical storms. Today, as random violent acts increase in U.S. cities and people like me are targeted for their beliefs and political parties swing to the edges, I begin to feel the need for refuge in a different way, and make the connection: Hate-filled mobs are like a storm you can’t get away from. Or this bizarre election feels like the earth shifting before an earthquake. You get the picture.
The people who wrote the Bible were subject to both kinds of disaster. Refuge was needed from natural storms and men alike. Their lives were intimately connected to the earth and they used the language of the earth—mountains shaking, seas roaring, stars falling—to describe the impact of civil unrest and political upheaval.
Today, I went from the morning news to the refuge of my Bible. Psalm 46 again:
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… (vss. 1-2)
Our world is changing, but God is still with us. “Very present” here is sometimes translated “ever-present” or “well-proved.” His help is not only available when and where we need it, it’s been tested and proved reliable. God does not change or “shake.” We can trust him and not fear because he is solid when all around us fails.
The psalm goes on to describe God’s city where he dwells. It is a picture of the Church. It cannot fall like the earth and nations can, because God who does not change lives within her:
God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved;
God will help her right early.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.[b or fortress] Selah (vss. 5-7)
Praying with this psalm as it calls me to think about who God is and what he has done has the effect of drawing me into God’s strong arms. He provides a safe refuge regardless of the storm outside. God speaks to my heart from the psalm:
“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. Selah (vss. 11-12)
Thinking about this year’s election, I add a few verses from a similar psalm:
Put not your trust in princes,
in a son of man, in whom there is no help.
When his breath departs he returns to his earth;
on that very day his plans perish.
Happy is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord his God,
who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them;
who keeps faith for ever…. (Psalm 146:3-6)
Blessings on you as you find refuge in God’s word!
© 2016 Sarah Christmyer
Read the first post in this series: Lord, Make Haste to Help Me!
Janet Robinson says
My gratitude is deep to be connected with this wonderful site.
You are aware of how noise our lives are, how busy we choose to be. You may have blogs on how to develop a quiet, receptive spirit, a listening heart, a love for silence. If you can lead me to these types of blogs, it would be helpful in becoming more re-ceptive to the Living Word, heard in Silence. One cannot come to peace, silence. It is a gift from God. What can one do to pre-pare to receive the prayer of quiet?
Sarah Christmyer says
Thank you, Janet. Under “categories” to the left of my blog, try the ones related to lectio divina. I’ll see if I can think of others. Maybe do a general search for words like “silence” and “quiet.” There is a “search this site” box at the bottom of every page.
There are the obvious techniques of setting aside a regular time in a quiet place, but as you suggested, one can’t simply BE quiet inside. For myself, I find that nothing beats practice and prayer, and when my prayer isn’t focused, reading the same scripture verse over and over again is a great help. Reading and praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament is also a great help to me. Let me know how it goes! May the Lord grant you a quiet heart as you rest in Him.
I am attracted to your response to Janet’s question about prayer. On reflecting that “one can’t simply BE quiet inside” you go on to explain how you meditate on a certain scripture. Then you observe that, “Reading and praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament is also a great help to me.” I pray fitfully and desperately (not fervently) when I am least in his Word; more boldly and often when I am reading the scripture daily. I would not consider my meditations, queries and confusions regarding His Word as prayers – but that is what they must be: they are always spilling into the day! I wonder if thoughtful meditation on His Word and prayer are two sides to the same coin? Also, Janet mentions your thoughts on “how to develop a quiet, receptive spirit, a listening heart, a love for silence.” These words beautifully express how I feel when I come to your web site. I join her in deep gratitude for you,
Theresa Haggerty says
Thank you Sarah for this lovely reflection. Theresa
Sarah Christmyer says
Yes they are the same thing! As St Ambrose and others have said, “We speak to him when we pray; we listen to him when we read the divine oracles” (divine oracles being the Scriptures).
Thank you! I’m so glad this is helpful to you. We learned from the same teacher – I know you draw deeply from the well of the Word. It was great talking to you earlier this fall and hearing how you do that on the way to work in the morning.