Most of us know well the opening words of Psalm 46: “God is our refuge and strength, a helper who is always found in times of trouble. Therefore we will not be afraid, though the earth trembles and the mountains topple into the depths of the seas…” (Ps. 46:1-2 CSB). This is an awesome Psalm to memorize for comfort, strength, and courage as we face various trials and crosses in our Christian lives. I appreciate James Montgomery Boice’s comments on these words:
Verse 1 looks to God for two kinds of help, indicating that he is: (1) a stronghold into which we can flee and (2) a source of inner strength by which we can face calamities. Sometimes God shields us from what is going on around us and it can be said of us, quoting the later psalmist, “A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked” (Ps. 91:7–8). In such times God is our fortress.
At other times we are afflicted and do suffer. Then we find that God is our help. We are able to say, “God is my strength, my ever-present help in trouble.”
God is our help even if the worst imaginable calamities should come upon us. This is what verses 2–3 are about, as the psalmist imagines the return of chaos, in which the “earth gives way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,” thus reversing the work of God on the third day of creation. Sometimes life is like that. The foundations of our established worlds are shaken, and chaos seems to have come again.
I seldom read these verses without thinking of Elisabeth Elliot. She suffered the loss of two husbands. The first, Jim Elliot, was killed by Auca Indians in Ecuador while trying to reach them with the gospel. The second, Addison Leitch, was slowly consumed by cancer. In relating what these experiences were like, she referred to this psalm, saying that in the first shock of death “everything that has seemed most dependable has given way. Mountains are falling, earth is reeling. In such a time it is a profound comfort to know that although all things seem to be shaken, one thing is not: God is not shaken.” She added that the thing that is most needful is to do what the psalmist does later, to “be still” and know that God is God. God is God whether we recognize it or not. But it comforts us and infuses strength into our faltering spirits to rest on that truth.
The above quote is found in James Montgomery Boice, Psalms 42–106: An Expositional Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2005), 389.
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015