A Very Present Help
Psalm 46: 1-3, 10-11
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.
“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.
A Very Present Help
For most of us, creation has long been a place where we see God. We see God in creation; in its majesty and magnificence, in its seemingly infinite variety of species, in its soul-restoring beauty. Thomas Merton wrote, “Nothing has ever been said about God that hasn’t already been said better by the wind in the pine trees.”
The book of Genesis tells us of God’s orderly and intentional creation process, where each element and living thing was brought into existence by God’s love. Like the work of a true artist, God’s creation reflects the nature of God, and serves as a daily reminder of God’s presence.
We are also reminded that creation is in a regular and often chaotic state of change. The mountains tremble and shake, and the waters roar and foam, the Psalmist says. In our current world we also see storms in the ocean and fires in the western United States, and we see the damaging effects that humanity has on God’s creation.
The state of our world and of God’s creation can be troubling to us. However, the Psalmist also tells us that though the earth should change, we can look to the nature of God and that when we do so, we have no reason to be afraid.
We are told to look to the nature of God as our refuge and strength and a very present help in trouble. What is the nature of this help? It varies according to where we find ourselves. Sometimes the nature of God’s help is to provide a compass by which we can make decisions about our course in life. Sometimes the help is in keeping our priorities grounded in faith. Sometimes the help is our source of comfort and assurance in times of doubt and despair. At all times in life, God is a very present help.
This means right now and in the day-to-day of our lives, in the ordinary times and in the moments of fear and trembling. Anne Lamott has written that “‘Help’ is a prayer that is always answered. It doesn't matter how you pray--with your head bowed in silence, or crying out in grief, or dancing.”
We also know that we can look to the world around us and to creation as the source of our assurance of God’s existence. Every morning we wake up to something that in all eternity never was before and never will be again. God’s creation is eternal but also new each day.
“Therefore we will not fear” the Psalmist says. The majesty of God’s creation reminds us that God is love. God is real, infinite, and present with us today.
A hymn that speaks to this is “This Is My Father’s World.” The words say:
This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears all nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres. This is my Father’s world: I rest me in the thought of rocks and trees, of skies and seas; his hands the wonders wrought.
This is my Father’s world, the birds their carols raise, the morning light, the lily white, declare their maker’s praise. This is my Father’s world: he shines in all that’s fair; in the rustling grass I hear him pass, he speaks to me everywhere.
This is my Father’s world. O let me ne’er forget that though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet. This is my Father’s world: why should my heart be sad? The Lord is King; let the heavens ring! God reigns; let the earth be glad!
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Thanks be to God. Amen.