I have several friends who work for the United States government who are not receiving paychecks right now. I have another friend who just moved to Colorado, and after being there only a few short days the floods came, and she was in the heart of the devastation. And like many others I have family members who are in the military, one cousin in particular who has done tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, all filled with anxiety as we flirt with war in Syria just as we thought Iraq and Afghanistan were winding down.
The other day I accidentally dropped a dollar on the ground around a bunch of young kids, and was amazed as none of them went for it. In my day, we clamored for a quarter! Our national debt is climbing to historic proportions as the dollar’s value plummets worldwide. It seems like there are more catastrophic natural disasters happening now than when I was a kid just 20 years ago, and I just watched a documentary on PBS about how the number of disasters is only going to increase. The ice caps are melting. School shootings. Arab springs. And just how many wars will it take to end them all???
These are unprecedented times.
I opened my Bible this morning, and flipped to where I left off the day before… Psalm 46. Now, I’m a pastor and I know my Bible, so I know what’s coming on this particular day. I’m a little disappointed, though, because I’m not thinking its going to be very relevant with all that’s going on. Psalm 46 contains one of the Bible’s most famous verses, a beloved favorite of millions of Christians…
“Be still and know that I am God.” - Psalm 46:10
Before I start reading, I’m thinking of everything that’s going on in my life and in this world, and I’m thinking… “How?” How am I supposed to be still? Look at the world! It’s falling apart.
I start reading, more for duty than hope. But I notice something new among these ancient words on this day, and the first few lines are a vise that grip my heart… The earth is giving way. Mountains fall into the sea. Flood waters surge. The nations are in an uproar. The world is falling apart.
It’s in the context of this tumultuous turmoil that God tells us to “Be still and know.” I’d always heard that verse quoted by people who were happy and peaceful, as if referencing a beautiful sunrise in their prize-winning garden where the birds are chirping and all is well. But the author of this Psalm is showing me that “Be still and know” is not some elevator background music to a picture perfect peaceful morning. It’s more like a war-cry that lifts its voice over the uproar of the nations! It girds my heart like a commanding officer addressing his men before battle. If we want Peace, we’ve got to quit being captivated by all the crazy and start fixing our attention on the God who sits enthroned above it all. We have to fight to remove our hearts from the storms of worry and floods of fear. And much like the eye of a hurricane is peaceful despite the swirling chaos, there is a center to our storm where we can find rest from our anxieties–God is in control.
I don’t know what you’re going through right now. A government shutdown or floods in Colorado or war with Syria might be the least of your worries, and your world could still be falling apart. In fact, sometimes our most personal storms are the most terrifying. Whatever it is, Jesus saw it coming. He said there will be famines and earthquakes. Wars and rumors of wars. Brother will betray brother unto death. He said that in this world, we WILL have trouble. Now that’s a promise from God, but not one we like to think about too often!
We will have trouble. There will be wars. The world will fall apart. But Jesus followed that promise of trouble with with these words,
“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” - John 16:33
Whatever chaos is going on in your world, whatever worry, whatever fear…
Take heart. Jesus has overcome. He is Lord of all.
As Psalm 46 says in the face of paralyzing trials, He is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble.
He is with us through it all. When the mountains quake, still your heart. When the flood waters rise, know that your Savior commands them with a word, “Peace. Be still.” As you exalt him in your heart, He that calmed the storm will calm your soul. He will lift his voice to sing over you, and the problems of this world will melt away. Amidst the swirling chaos, he will harbor you in the eye of the storm.
Jesus is God. He has overcome. He is in control.
Be still and know.