When Life Stinks
According to John Haggai, “Mrs. Monroe lives in Darlington, Maryland. She’s the mother of eight children…. She came home one afternoon from the grocery store and walked into her home. Everything looked pretty much the same, though it was a bit quieter than usual. She looked into the middle of the living room and five of her darlings were sitting around in a circle, exceedingly quiet, doing something in the middle of the circle. She put down the sacks of groceries and walked over closely and saw that they were playing with five of the cutest skunks you can imagine. She was instantly terrified and yelled, ‘Run, children, run!’ Each child grabbed a skunk and ran in five different directions. She was beside herself and screamed louder. It so scared the children that each one squeezed his skunk. And, as we all know, skunks don’t like to be squeezed.”
That is like the setting we find in Psalm 46. In verses 2-3, the psalm speaks of the earth changing, and the mountains shaking, and the waters roaring, and the mountains trembling. In verse 6, the psalm speaks of nations being in an uproar and of kingdoms tottering. All that had seemed stable to the psalmist is falling apart around him. All that had seemed secure is now a mess.
In the midst of such turmoil, Psalm 46 finds hope in the answers to three critical questions:
- Who is God?
- Where is God?
- What are we to do?
The answer to the first question is presented in the first verse of the psalm: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble,” and in the last verse of the psalm: “The God of Jacob is our refuge.” Even before the Jewish people settled in the land of Israel, God instructed them to build cities of refuge—a place a person could run to if his or her life were in danger. Psalm 46:1 & 11 announce to us that God is our refuge. We can run to God’s protection whenever our life is in danger. Whenever the world around us is in turmoil, God will hold us securely. Thus Psalm 46:1 leads to Psalm 46:2: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change….”
The answer to the second question is given in verses 7 and 11, both of which read: “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.” When it feels that our life is in danger, we do not have to run to a city of refuge; “the Lord of hosts” is already with us. We need not search frantically for where we might be able to find God; “the Lord of hosts” is right here with us. God will never abandon us; he is always at our side and in our soul.
The answer to the third question is offered to us in verse 10: “Be still and know that I am God!” In the midst of fear or confusion or turmoil, what we are called to do is to be still and to keep in mind that God is still God. Leighton Ford remarks, “We can pull down the shades and shut out the sun, but we can never turn the sun’s light into darkness. When the shades go up, the sun is still shining. And when we turn to God, his all-compassionate love is waiting to stream into our life.” Therefore, in the midst of fear or confusion or turmoil, be still and remember that God is still God.