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God is Our Refuge --- Psalm 46 - A Meditation

By John Kunnathu

Remember a time in your life when you felt really bad. You were scared, depressed, and hopeless. You felt like you had nobody to help you. You felt like you wanted to end this meaningless life. Try to remember:

What happened?
What caused it? and
How you overcame it?

Today we are going to read a poem about such a situation. The poet felt very bad some time in his life. He felt scared, depressed and hopeless. Let us read the poem, and find out how he overcame the situation.

1 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.
5 God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.
6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
7 The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
8 Come and see the works of the LORD, the desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear, he burns the shields with fire.
10 "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."
11 The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Look at the word "trouble" in verse 1. If I ask you to draw a picture of trouble how will you do it? Trouble is an abstract idea. Let us give it a shape, size and color, and translate it into a concrete thing. Let us read verses 2 and 3. Here the poet draws a picture of trouble using words. It speaks in metaphorical language. Let us translate it into literal language. In times when you felt bad, scared, depressed, you felt like you were in the midst of a tornado, didn't you? You felt like the earth was moving away from under your feet, didn't you? Try to complete this sentence for me. You may use your picture to help you. "In times of trouble I felt like ....." Please use metaphorical language. For example: "In times of trouble, I felt like a plane with a dead engine."

Now let us look at another key word in verse 1: "help". Think of a time when you helped someone, or someone helped you. Here in this poem, the poet emphatically says that we will not be afraid in the midst of the worst trouble (vs 2-3). Look at the poem (vs 1-3) and find out what gives the poet such courage. Because God is our ever-present help.

Let me explain how the help from God is different from the help from someone else. God's help is available to anybody, for any kind of trouble, any time, and anywhere. The poet has used a metaphor to describe and explain God's help. It is repeated in vs. 7 and 11: fortress. It is like a castle where you will be safe when the enemies come to attack you. God is like a fortress that protects us from all the troubles that surrounds us. The word "refuge" is also used (vs.1) with similar meaning. We are familiar with the word "refugee", which means someone who seeks refuge or protection.

Have you ever experienced God as a fortress in your life? Have your ever asked for God's help? If God is our ever-present help, why don't people seek God's help whenever they are in trouble? I think there is only one reason. We don't know God enough to ask His help. We don't ask help from strangers, do we? We need to know God better and better day after day in order to seek His help whenever we are in trouble. How can we know God better? The poet here suggests a way to know God better. Look at vs.10. "Be still, and know that I am God". What do we mean by being still. It has both a literal meaning and a metaphorical meaning. Literally it means keeping the body still without any movement. Metaphorically it means keeping the mind still without any movement of thoughts or feelings. Have you ever tried to keep your mind still like that? We usually call it meditation. If you look directly at the Sun, you cannot see it. You go blind. But you can see the reflection of Sun in a pool if the water remains still. Just like this, God cannot be seen directly. We can see only the reflection of God in our mind if and only if the mind remains absolutely still without any kind of movement. Not only Christianity but also almost all the other major religious traditions in the world tell us that God can be seen and known only with a pure heart and a clear mind.

I think our mind needs a daily shower just like our body because our mind gets covered with dirt like excessive guilt feeling, anxiety, fear, hatred and jealousy. Just as a child jumps onto the lap of his mother with all the dirt on his body, and the mother washes all the dirt off of his body, we need to present ourselves to God, our dear parent in heaven, as we are, with all the dirt. If we open up our heart totally to God, He will make us clean of all the dirt.

An infant can't see very well just because he can't focus his eyes. As he grows up, he tries day after day to focus better, and finally he gains the ability to see very well. Similarly, our mind's eye needs focusing. Meditation is basically an exercise to train our mind to focus. If we can spend a few minutes everyday to try to focus our mind by keeping it still, we will eventually be able to see an amazingly different world.

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