31 Jul 2021
I live in London. I’ve never experienced a significant earthquake, volcanic eruption, tsunami or landslide. My disaster preparedness is limited to taking in the washing before it rains! It’s never seemed particularly important to know what to do when the house starts shaking. But I have a friend who lives in New Zealand. She knows what it’s like to have the wall of your lounge collapse because of an earthquake. So I’m quite sure she’s read the New Zealand Government’s earthquake readiness instructions. Basically, you find the nearest, strongest thing you can and take cover beneath it until the danger has passed.
Psalm 46 is the Bible’s ‘earthquake readiness’ manual. It is a song that reminds us of the only way to be safe when normal life comes crashing down around our ears. The earthquake could be a personal disaster or a national crisis; any kind of here-and-now emergency that reveals how flimsy the things we have been relying on – financial security, good health, qualifications, a career plan - really are. When my friendship group falls apart, when my family disintegrates, when I fail at the only thing that feels important, when the doctor says ‘It’s not good news …’ what is the nearest, strongest thing under which I can take cover? When our children’s security is shaken, when their hopes are crushed, when their problems are beyond our ability to fix, where will we tell them to run to find safety? Psalm 46 gives us the answer: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (v1)
The Lord who loves us is the nearest, strongest place to go to when everything is falling apart, whatever the reason. But there will one day be an even greater shaking than the immediate problems of this life. God himself will destroy the mountains he created, rock the foundations of the earth and roll up the heavens whose stars he breathed out. Nothing and no-one is stronger than God. So where could we possibly take refuge to be safe from a God-sized disaster? The answer is the same. Only in God himself. “Be still and know that I am God” (v10) is the only way to find any kind of stillness and safety in the midst of that kind of chaos.
Wonderfully, the castle gate is wide. We don’t have to elbow others out of the way as we take refuge in the Lord. There’s plenty of room for all who Jesus invites inside. So, when trouble comes we can cling to God together. That’s especially important when disasters makes us panic and we forget the things that were once obvious to us. In our moments of clarity and calm we know that God is good, he loves us and will keep us safe. But when the once-stable rocks of our normal life start falling down around us, we can be so focussed on the danger that we forget the disaster drill. What a help it is, at those times, to be surrounded by others who can shout over the noise of the thumping and crashing, “RUN TO GOD!”
As parents, we get to help our children do this. When we sympathise over a broken friendship, we can remind them to bring their hurt to the God who cares, asking him to help us keep loving. When we mourn together over loved ones who have gone, we can together ask the one who never leaves us for comfort and strength. When we pray for practical help in response to any kind of difficulty we can also thank God together that he always loves us and is still looking after us. We can let them see us turn to God when we are shaken, instead of doing it silently behind closed doors. Imagine if taking refuge in God became so instinctive that they started reminding us, “Run to God!” when we forget!
So let’s praise our great fortress for the security he provides, thank him for giving us a church family to remind us of that reality, and commit to encouraging one another to find our refuge in him, whatever happens.
We have written a series of four Sunday School sessions to help our families work through this period of clear up. We have focused on four overwhelming emotions our children might be feeling. As with all our resources, we hope you will find these lessons flexible enough to suit your unique needs. Consider using them as the foundation for your church sermons and youth ministry. Use the ‘Parent Components’ to encourage conversations about these Psalms at home. If we can all learn together then we will surely be better at fighting the monsters together.