Psalm 46: Be Still

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult. Selah

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 the city; it shall not be moved; God will help it when the morning dawns. The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah

Come, behold the works of the Lord; see what desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. “Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.” The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.

Psalm 46:1-11 (NRSV)

Psalm 46 reflects on God’s might and power above a world of tumult. Though ” “mountains tremble”, the “waters roar and foam”, the nations be “in an uproar” and “kingdoms totter”, our mighty God is more powerful than all of these things. But it is also a message of care for God’s people: “the God of Jacob is our refuge”, and these words are said to have inspired Martin Luther to write the hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”.

Verse 10 had a profound effect on my life recently. “Be still, and know that I am God!”

A few months ago, I was praying during a time when I had several complex, stressful issues on my mind. I couldn’t focus, and my mind kept jumping around from one thing to another, with half-formed thoughts and supplications to God. I had so much to worry about and fix and be responsible for. I knew that I needed God’s help… but it was just so hard to pray coherently.

It was then that the words of Psalm 46:10 ran through my mind. “Be still and know that I am God!” There was nothing in my thoughts that led up to it—just the same mess of anxiety and stress that I’d been feeling for days—but when those words hit my brain, I felt as if all the stress were just fading away, leaving me with a profound peace. I sensed that God had my problems in His mind, and that He was saying to me “don’t worry – I’ve got this. There’s time to deal with all of it, and I’m with you”.

The word translated “still” in most English translation is the Hebrew “râpâ” which means to relax, to let go, or to cease striving… and I believe this was the message that God had for me. He wanted me to be still in His presence, so that He could be with me without all my issues and anxieties getting in the way. He wanted me to be still, so that He could be my refuge.

Since that time, I’ve come back to Psalm 46 often, and verse 10 continues to have an impact on me. Stressful situations still arise for me (just like everyone else), but God’s word has created something new for me—a mental space of stillness and calm that I can go to when I need to recover the peace that God gives me.

It’s the place where I feel that God is my refuge.

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