How do we anchor our souls when the waves of life threaten to undo us? When we get hit by a terrifying diagnosis? When the constant emotional or physical pain won’t cease? When the dark clouds of depression continue to hover? When we lose our job? When the next step in life is unsettlingly unclear?
In other words, what do we do when our present circumstances seem far too substantial and confusing for our very limited abilities and understanding?
For those who feel the world crashing in around them, here are four soul-steadying reminders from Psalm 46.
1. God Is Our Protection
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. (Psalm 46:1–3)
We see God as our refuge and strength — a reality God’s people knew then, and one we enjoy even more deeply now in Christ. In Christ we can know that God is always for us in our suffering and uncertainty. “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).
“Our protection is not in better circumstances, or in avoiding problems, or in anything on earth. It is in God.”
Because of Christ, the Spirit lives inside of us as a very present help in trouble. Jesus promised to never leave us or forsake us (Matthew 28:20), and Psalm 46 points to that fulfillment in the Spirit.
When we feel like everything is uncertain, when the mountains might as well crash into the sea, the first thing we do is remember that our protection is not in better circumstances, or in avoiding the problems, or in anything on this earth. Instead, our protection is the very present Holy Spirit and the rock-solid work of Jesus on our behalf, which has guaranteed our help and promised that we will make it safely home to glory.
2. God Is Our Pleasure
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. (Psalm 46:4–5)
The scene suddenly shifts from raging seas and falling mountains to a life-giving river with sweet streams that make the city of God rejoice.
Notice: she will not be moved. That she must be the city of God, which means the people in the city rejoice in their safety within the city’s walls. Because of the presence of God, we will not be moved. Because he is a very present, never-failing help in trouble, our safety and our gladness are secure.
“Mercies arrive every morning, mercies enough for that day and mercies that will not run out a moment too soon.”
When everything else feels like it’s impossible to enjoy, when Satan threatens to undo us and rob us of all joy, we can raise our eyes and realize we are in the city of God. He is with us! And one day, we will be with him face to face in the new heavens and new earth. Nothing can steal this joy.
More than that, we know we will wake up the next morning and God will still be with us to help us again. There will be new mercies every morning — mercies that will be enough for that day and mercies that will not run out a moment too soon.
3. God Is Our Power
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Come, behold the works of the Lord, how he has brought desolations on the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire. (Psalm 46:6–9)
Everything the psalmist has said so far would be for naught if God weren’t strong enough to bring it about. Now, we see his strength. The entire world rages and totters. Everything conspires against you. The whole power of the cursed world heads your direction. What will God do?
Utter his voice. And the earth melts before him. It melts. The God of hosts, the God who fights on our behalf, is with us as our fortress, and all he has to do is speak to win the battle.
“Nothing that rises against you in your life can stand before your God.”
And then, to prove his power, the psalmist calls us to look at his works as proof. He’s brought desolations, he’s stopped wars, he’s broken bows and shattered spears, and he’s burned chariots with fire. In other words, nothing is a match for him.
From this side of the cross, we can go even further: he’s sent his Son to die for our sins. He’s raised him up again in victory, guaranteeing our final victory. Come, behold the works of the Lord. Nothing that rises against you can stand before him.
4. God’s Purpose
“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. (Psalm 46:10–11)
David repeats the promise that God will defend us. Verse 10 tells us why God promises his protection, pleasure, and power to fragile and uncertain people. He says, “I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”
God’s purpose is his glory. God promises he will glorify his name in all the earth. God promises to show that he indeed is the greatest protection, he indeed is the greatest pleasure, and he indeed is the greatest power.
And in Jesus, God has pledged it all to us. Jesus has taken the punishment; now all we know is grace. So, when we wonder if God will continue to shelter us with his protection, satisfy us with his pleasure, and sustain us to fight another day of uncertainty with his power, our answer is, Of course he will; his name is at stake! Of course he will; he is working in me to keep me and sustain me for his glory!
“Even if God’s protection looks like taking everything else away, he will keep us safe in Christ.”
This means we can trust God to do what’s best for us to reach eternal pleasure with him. It means that even if his protection looks like taking everything else away — health, comfort, convenience, friends, family, jobs, or whatever — he will keep us safe in Christ. It means he will help us to make it, because his name is invested in the lives of his people.
There is no greater comfort for us in our pain and uncertainty.
Be Still and Know
So, how do we respond when life is uncertain?
We stop. We become still. We pray. We ask for help. We remember that he is God, and we are not. And we trust him to be our mighty fortress, and to bring new mercies, and to work his power on our behalf, whatever it takes.
We remember that he is God and that he is enough. And then we ask him for help to trust him more through the uncertainty and pain, and to give us more of himself in the uncertainty and pain.