My friend Jonathan Haefs is the pastor of an amazing church in Birmingham called Shades Valley Community Church. He has recently been getting very disciplined about posting devotional reflections on Scripture which I’ve been reading 1,300 miles away in Denver. He’s been breathing life into me with his steadiness. It’s about time that I follow his example, on the off-chance that my posting can do the same for someone:
Reflecting on Psalm 46
True Christian spirituality does not deny the terrifying world around us. Throughout the entire sweep of Scripture, we are a people who live east of Eden under the constant threat of Egyptian whips with the impending knowledge that death’s cold fingers will seize us eventually. When we’re not intoxicated by our culture’s relentlessly served cocktails of entertainment—either by accidentally missing our routine or by crisis closing the bar temporarily—we suddenly look around and see “the earth giving way” and “the waters roaring and foaming” (v2-3).
Even a small but sober glance at the trouble in our world, in our local community, in our family, in our body or in our soul, makes it seem like the mountains are falling into the sea.
The glorious good news witnessed to by Scripture and the Church often starts with “But.”
But “there is a river whose streams make glad the city of God” (v4).
There is a river.
What if we believed that? Not just lip service, but actually found our grounding in it? What if we actually trusted that God—the maker and sustainer of the entire cosmos—really is “our refuge and strength.” That he really is faithful? That he really is “an ever-present help in trouble” (v1)?
That despite the convulsing geology surrounding us, there is a River.
Maybe I’m different than most Christians, but I’ve got a bit of a messiah-complex. I’m definitely not different from most ministers, but I think this is a broader human problem too. I want to save the world. To save those around me. To save my loved ones. From everything. From pain, from struggle, from fear, from tragedy, from sickness and ultimately from death. And then I get exhausted because the work is too much. The landscape—mountains, sea, everything—is collapsing.
I can’t even save myself.
When we can finally get to this point of honesty about the terror around us and within us—I mean, really admit it and sit in it—then we’re finally ready to hear the good news. Because God speaks, saying “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (v10).
And he will be.
There’s nothing that be compared with God. Nations try shouting and only end up knocking over some legos; the Divine simply utters some words and the entire. earth. melts.
Rather than denying the terror around us, true Christian spirituality invites us to anticipate the sort of “desolation” that God will bring—namely the destruction of war and weapons, violence and death (v8-9). God will destroy everything that destroys life (also compare Gen 6:5-8 and Rev 11:18).
This is incredibly good news that I’m invited to believe. This is incredibly good news that ought to be changing my life.
Ought to be relieving my anxiety, because I don’t have to save anyone.
Ought to relaxing my schedule, because God will be exalted.
Ought to be renewing my soul, because there is a River.
Though the earth give way, though the mountains collapse, I will again and again place my trust in the crucified God who really is our fortress (v11).