Our Refuge, Strength and Ever-Present Help
By Imtiaz Ashraf
Psalm 46 reveals who God is and reminds us that in times of uncertainty, fear and worry, God’s presence and peace are with His people. It is a special source of comfort to those who are experiencing oppression because of their faith.
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Hello everybody. Something I miss in the life of the church today is the singing of the Psalms. In Pakistan Christians love singing Psalms and many of them memorize them by heart. Those who have experienced oppression and all kinds of persecution have found the Psalms to lift them from the depths of despair, doubt, and depression to a place of peace and comfort.
In Pakistan, many Christians have been subjected to all kinds of oppression and unjust treatment and because of persecution those who have found Christ have had to leave their homes, community and live in a safe place.
One of the psalms that has been helpful in difficult times to those are going through hard times is Psalm 46. This is a special psalm because it reveals who God is and is a reminder that in times of uncertainty, fear and worry, God’s presence and peace are with His people.
The first verse in this Psalm reveals three truths about who God is and what He is like.
Firstly, the Psalmist tells us in v1 ‘God is our refuge.’ A refuge is a place of shelter and protection from harm. When it rains, we seek refuge. When God’s people are persecuted, they seek refuge. When the Bible describes God as our refuge, it is saying that God is our safe place.
Many Christians who face and experience persecution live in safe houses or safe places and feel safe in that environment. However, they know their real safe place and refuge is in God. It is in His presence they feel safe and secure.
We may not experience oppression and persecution at this time. However, one day we may do, and it is in those times we need to seek God and take refuge in Him.
In times of great difficulty David was confident that God would keep him safe from his oppressors and his enemies. Once he said in Psalm 18:2 ‘The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.’
Brothers and sisters, our safe place in this world is not in our spouse, or family or money and possessions but in ‘the eternal God who is our refuge and whose everlasting arms are under us.’ (Deuteronomy 33:27)
Secondly the psalmist tells us ‘in God is our strength.’ The word strength means power, might, and boldness. I have discovered that when troubles come our way it is so easy to get anxious, worried, and stressed. And these emotions can cause us to lose our strength and drain our energy. They can also cause us to lose our focus on God.
Christians around the world who continually face oppression and all kinds of persecutions rely on God to strengthen them. They know that they cannot deal with the difficulties of life on their own and know only God is the one who gives strength to the weary and the power to the weak. (Isaiah 40:29, 31)
In Pakistan a father lost his two daughters in a bomb blast. The pain was unbearable for him. However, during his pain he could testify that God was and is his strength.
Even in such suffering Christians in Pakistan are very prayerful people and can be a tremendous help and inspiration to us here in the West. When life is hard, we must always remember the source of strength is only found in the one and true living God who will give us strength for whatever challenges we face today and in the future.
In Isaiah chapter 41:10 God says to His people ‘So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.’
Thirdly, in v1 God is our ‘ever-present help in trouble.’ Over the years talking to many Christians some have said that when they are overwhelmed by a life situation, they feel God is far off and nowhere to be found. The Psalmist reminds us that if even we do not sense His presence, He is right there with us. He is an ever-present help. This means that every second of every hour of every day, God’s presence and power is available to us.
Once when David was in deep trouble, he said in Psalm 18:6 ‘In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.’
If at this time in your life you are going through a difficult time, I encourage you to ‘draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so we (you) may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.’ (Hebrews 4:16)