To the chief Musician for the sons of Korah, A Song upon Alamoth.
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed,
and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled,
though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.
Psalm 46:1-3 (KJV)
Background: 2 Samuel 8:1- 18; 1 Chronicles 18:1-17
This is a psalm attributed to the “Sons of Korah” and, in the Reese chronological Bible, it is placed after David secures the kingdom of Israel and re-possesses the land promised to Abraham. The nation of Israel, having just won these victories over surrounding enemies and secured their land, took this pause in their nation’s history to stand back and see their God for who He was – “a very present help in time of trouble.” That same phrase could be translated as an “abundantly available help” in times of distress.
There is an important truth here. Times of trouble are times we want to avoid. We do not want to drift into times of want, danger, or sickness. Yet this psalm implies that God is very, if not more, available during these times than the easy times. This is because that times of distress open up opportunities to know God in ways we could not know Him otherwise. The apostle James approaches this idea from a different angle:
Consider it nothing but joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you fall into various trials. Be assured that the testing of your faith [through experience] produces endurance [leading to spiritual maturity, and inner peace]. And let endurance have its perfect result and do a thorough work, so that you may be perfect and completely developed [in your faith], lacking in nothing.
James 1:2-4 (AMP)
If we were to assign a color to any of our trials we would probably pick drab, dark, and ugly colors. But James chose an unusual word (“various” – poikilos – Greek) to describe them. Vine’s Expository Dictionary defines this word as meaning “party-colored.” Our trials are not colored dark brown, olive green, battleship gray, or even disgusting “Milk of Magnesia” pink – but rather the cheery colors of bright red, shining yellow, and vibrant green! They are times of beauty, not ugliness.
Let me explain. We can only see colors because they only reflect a certain wavelength on the spectrum of pure light. John tells us that God is light – containing no darkness at all (1 John 1:5). When we are hit with one of these many-colored trials, they give us an opportunity to see a “wavelength” of God’s “spectrum,” a side of His character or an aspect of His power, that we would not have experienced before. In this way they help us grow in grace and the knowledge of Him!
“Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.” During our time as missionaries, we went through several earthquakes – some quite serious and deadly. The most frightening thing about an earthquake is that there is no place to hide or to escape it. Everything starts moving, you feel like you are standing on jiggling, swaying, jello. All you can do is try to avoid a building crushing you. One time, a huge earthquake hit an hour or two after a national pastor and I had just passed through a mountain pass on a bus. The mountains literally moved! Several landslides occurred on that pass pushing some buses off the mountain and isolating those who survived for weeks. They are something to be feared unless you have an “abundantly available help”!
The psalm goes on to describe another terrifying sight. “Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof.” Though I never witnessed or experienced a tsunami (videos of them are scary enough) we did witness the outer edges of a storm surge. There is something terrifying about the sea when it is whipped up and reaches out beyond its borders with such power that it washes away everything in its path.
Most people don’t have to face earthquakes, tsunamis, or floods – but there are other kinds of disasters that can terrify us just as much. Uncertain times, civil unrest, family problems, explosive politics, and financial uncertainty can send us reeling with fear or crush us with despair. When this Psalm was written, Israel had just captured Jerusalem and subdued the enemies that had threatened to destroy them for generations. As they looked back they recognized they had won for only one reason – the Lord was their shelter (for protection) and strength (force to defend themselves).
If He was their refuge and strength in all they went through – He can be yours as well. If He made Himself “abundantly available” to them in their distress – He will do the same for you. Take some time to pause at this Selah in Psalm 46 and consider what aspect of His character God is trying to show you through the “color” of the trials you are passing through now. It may be a dramatic color like fire engine red, or a subtler pastel blue. Whatever the distress or tight space you are going through, remember this – He is allowing you to go through that experience for the purpose of knowing Him better. There are aspects of His power, His person, and His love that can only be seen through that “color” of trial you are going through now. Remember – He is abundantly available to you to accomplish His perfect purposes in your life. Count it all joy!