God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. – Psalm 46:1
When circumstances are beyond our control and seem to be working against us, we must hold on to the truth that God loves us and that there is nothing that can separate us from that love if we are in Christ. “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38–39). God is not a generic refuge for every person on earth, but only for those who belong to Him by repentant faith in Jesus Christ.
When we have assurance of a relationship with God through His Son, we possess a refuge in Him. The psalmist continues: even “though the earth should change,” or “mountains slip into the heart of the sea,” “though its waters roar and foam,” and the “mountains quake,” we will not fear. Why? Because the living God, our refuge and strength, is present with us. The causes of fear mentioned by the psalmist are totally beyond our control. We have no control over earthquakes or mountains slipping into the sea. God alone controls these things. We must remember that, no matter how difficult our circumstances may become, we are never alone. God is our very present help. The psalmist is saying, “Trust God. Fear God, and nothing else.”
To fear God is to escape from all other fears, to anchor our souls to an immovable rock in a harbor of strong defense. When I struggle with fear, I will often drive a few miles to the shore of Lake Michigan, one of the Great Lakes, to look at the waves and reflect on the awesome power of God. Though the waves sometimes rage, threatening to damage the docked sailboats and yachts, the water in the harbor is calm because of the protection of the breakwater. The boats that rest in the harbor are quiet; they are secure, because the rock wall is designed to hold back the threatening waves. Using the same imagery, James Bruce writes of the painful waves of grief:
Real grief is not easily comforted. It comes like ocean waves rushing up the sand, subsiding back, only to roll in again. These waves vary in size, frequency, and intensity. Some are small, lapping up around the feet. Others are stronger; they foam the water around you and cause you to stagger. Then there are the overwhelming waves with an under-tow that can turn your world upside down and drag you out into deep waters. In times such as those, the mourner desperately needs an anchor. [From Grief to Glory]
That anchor is God. He is our refuge and strength. As long as we trust in Him, we remain unshakeable, safe, and secure in His tender care.
No matter how difficult our storms may be, we can endure them with inner calm and joy. “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy dwelling places of the Most High” (v. 4). Again, we are assured of the Lord’s omnipresence: “God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns” (v. 5). It is peaceful in the city of God, where He dwells. When circumstances are beyond our control, we are exactly where God wants us to be so that we learn to trust Him who delights in coming to our aid.
[originally published in Comfort Those Who Grieve]