Wildfires raging out of control in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana. Catastrophic record-breaking flooding in Texas. Severe threats from Irma across Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas.
How can you find peace when you lift up your eyes and all you see is orange sky and smoke-covered sun? When you wade through chest-high water to find your home of thirty years destroyed beyond repair? When injury and loss capture every waking moment?
Life gets turned upside-down and there’s nothing anyone can do to make things right again. No amount of time or money can replace what’s been lost. No amount of comfort can fill that emptiness of grief. How can there be peace in the midst of that?
Stop looking at the devastation, the loss, the grief. Drag your eyes away from the horror and force your gaze upward. Look to the One who has promised to be your refuge and strength. Cling to His promise to be an ever-present help in time of trouble.
“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.”
I have a feeling this psalm is becoming very dear to a lot of Christians right now. Whatever part of the country – or the world – you live in or love, there is no place that is out of God’s watchful eye. There is no destruction that is too horrible for God to walk you through. There is no loss too great for Him to comfort, no grief too deep for Him to calm and satisfy.
You might be wondering what right I have to say these things. I’ve never lost everything in a flood. I’ve never watched my home, my memories slip away into ashes. I’ve never watched my carefully-built life crumble to pieces in a tornado or earthquake.
And I haven’t . . . yet. But I know, if I ever do go through something like that, whether war- or weather-related disasters or whatever may come, God will be enough for me – just as He is for you who know those tragedies first-hand.
“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.”
He is with you, a very present help in time of trouble. He’s there in the midst of grief and loss, calling you closer to Himself. He is the One who never changes, the only presence you can never lose.
Never mind the photos, the heirlooms, the sweet gifts from your children. Never mind the homestead built by your own blood, sweat, and tears. Those things are precious, to be sure: but the truth is, they won’t last forever anyway. Whether you lose them now or when you pass from this world to the next, they will eventually be given to others, thrown away, or simply left to rot and decay.
There is a time to grieve, a time to mourn what is lost, a time to weep over suffering. But before that grief overwhelms you, stop and refocus. Remember the One who is ever-present, even in the flames and the flood.
I’m not arguing against possessions, I’m arguing for presence . . . as in, God’s presence. He is there, waiting for you to call on Him. So seek Him earnestly, fervently. Turn aside those regrets and griefs of the past. Block out those what-if’s of the future. He is not in those: He is in the now, the present.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were condemned to die in the burning fiery furnace, a blaze so hot it killed the soldiers who stepped near it. But these men of God did not back down in fear or tremble in grief. Instead, they stood firm in their faith:
“Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not . . . we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
God is always able to deliver us from physical suffering and material destruction. But if not — if He ordains that we suffer through grief and pain — what then?
But if not . . . then He is still our refuge and strength and ever-present help.
Think of those martyred for the faith. We have account after account of men and women throughout the centuries who bravely faced torture and death at the hands of wicked men. Yet they remained calm, often joyful, in the face of excruciating pain. They sang even as they thought of loved ones who would be left behind, relationships torn asunder by death, memories forever lost to the depths of Sheol.
How could they stand such sorrow and yet rejoice? True, they knew they were headed for a heavenly home. That’s enough to ease pain a little. But to erase it, and turn tears into laughter? Lament in song?
They knew the secret to finding peace in the midst of the storm.
They refused to drown in the losses that were or would soon be past, or let the fires of what-if’s rage through their minds. They remained steadfastly in the present, clinging to the promise that God was with them as a well-proven help for whatever they walked through at that moment.
So if you’re walking through the fire or flood right now, remember: God is still good. No matter what. And if you’re not, then don’t give tragedy a dress-rehearsal or an encore. It doesn’t deserve your devotion. It won’t bring you peace.
Cling to your ever-present help in time of trouble, whether the nations rage or kingdoms fall or the mountains fall into the sea.
He is your peace in the midst of every storm, your immovable rock, your unchanging refuge. He is your shelter from the storm.