Our Refuge and Strength
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear… (Psalm 46:1-2a)
On any list of favorite psalms, Psalm 46 is among the top ten. The verse identified as “most quoted” varies:
- God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help (v. 1)
- Be still and know that I am God. (v. 10)
- The Lord is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress (v. 7,11)
An Ancient Song
Psalm 46 was a song used in the temple in Jerusalem almost three thousand years ago. A song of hope, worshipers sang it to celebrate the time God’s kingdom will cover the whole earth. During the Reformation, this psalm took on new life as a hymn when Martin Luther (1483-1546) wrote “A Mighty Fortress is our God.” We’ve been singing Psalm 46 ever since, for almost 500 years.
All three of the favorite verses express the theme of Psalm 46: our God does not desert us in times of trouble. God may not take away our suffering or arrange our lives the way we desire, but God stays with us, no matter the trouble we find ourselves in. He is our refuge and strength–all we need to do is be still and know that God is God. As my friend Melody commented, “EVER present means NEVER absent. When I am in trouble, He is already there, waiting for me to declare my need for and dependence upon Him.”
Let Go and Let God
My grandfather had another way of expressing God’s ever-present help in times of trouble: he wore a little lapel pin that said, “Let Go and Let God.” A fiercely independent, self-made man, Jerry Schroeder went blind in his mid-fifties from detached retinas in both eyes. The doctors did what they could, but in 1951 laser surgery was many years in the future. The result of multiple surgeries to reattach the retinas was complete blindness. Without so much as light sensitivity, he was thrust into a life of dependence on his wife, his daughter, his friends, and sometimes complete strangers.
I was two when my grandfather lost his sight, so I was unaware of his physical and emotional suffering. It wasn’t until many years later that I learned he became so despondent he considered suicide. But God was his refuge and strength, his ever-present, never-absent help in the dark world of blindness. How vividly I recall seeing my grandfather on his knees by his bed every morning, hands clasped in urgent prayer. Shortly before he died, Granddaddy told me in his dreams at night he could see. So when he woke and opened his eyes, he was always shocked by his blindness. But every morning on his knees by his bed, he found God waiting for him. All he had to do was to let go of his weakness and let God be his strength for the day ahead.
The words of Psalm 46 endure in our hearts because they speak to every trouble–from blindness, to the death of a child, to chronic illness. In what trouble has God been your fortress?