Thursday, April 28, 2011

A very present help

In times when words escape me, I appreciate the depth of honesty and humanity in the psalms. These ancient psalmists timelessly capture the essence of being human while desiring to seek after the heart of God. They can be explosive in emotion - rage, despair, sorrow - and still, explosive in faith.

It seems that the more natural and human-made disasters that accost our world, with increasing regularity, the more difficulty I have not feeling fearful of the future. I used to eat up the news about these sorts of things, wanting to stay in the know on the unfolding events. Now, I struggle not to cringe and shut out the news when I hear about the facts of the disasters, the toll they are taking on lives. I learned last night that one of my cousins, whom I've only met a few times, lives in one of the towns that has been reported to have been wiped out by the tornado in Alabama. My grandma called my mom last night in tears, saying she hadn't received her usual morning email from my cousin. I stood there in partial shock, trying to imagine an entire town being carried away or flattened by a tornado.

I opened to a psalm, having once again no words, and I read this cry David wrote thousands of years ago, imagining many in the south and midwest could identify:

My heart is severely pained within me, and the terrors of death have fallen upon me. Fearfulness and trembling have come upon me, and horror has overwhelmed me. So I said, "Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest. Indeed, I would wander far off, and remain in the wilderness. I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest. ~ Psalm 55: 4-8 (NKJV)

I'm not even in the midst of a tornado, and I can relate to wishing I could fly away and be at rest someplace safe. To hasten my escape from it all. It's cowardly, perhaps, not very faith-filled. But it's real.

Then, I turned back to another psalm, needing something more than this raw emotion David expressed. I found solace in one of my favorites, Psalm 46.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling (verses 1-3).

There is the fear, the terror at times, the desire to escape the storms. And then, somewhere in the midst of it all, there is God. The safe place, the one refuge in the storm that cannot be plucked up, blown over or ripped to pieces, is a very present help in trouble.

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