Earth changes…mountains shake…rivers roar.” Amidst the uproar, Psalm 46 says: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”
What a juxtaposition of thought — strength and refuge! We need the church to provide spiritual shelter and protection from distress. Yet, a comforting place to retreat from “the troubles of the world” is only part of what we need. Today’s lessons challenge us to balance our need for refuge with strength of mind and body, enabling us to do God’s will in the world. Spiritual strength gives us the courage to stand up against wrongdoing and to fight injustice, as Jesus did.
The psalm promises us that “There is a river whose streams make glad the City of God.” In Ezekiel, this river is “a stagnant water” that “has to be passed through.” Only after enduring stagnant worldly trials and tribulations will the water “become fresh.” It takes strength to survive the “stagnant water” of life. In John, people walked by troubled water, indifferent to the multitudes of needy people along the way. “No man put me in the pool and others stepped before me,” said an invalid. Can there be refuge where there is indifference?
Christian, in John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, thought he could ignore earthly distractions. Yet, he concluded: “The way to the Celestial City lies just through this town…and he who would go to the city, and yet not go through this town must needs go out of the world.” Let us choose not to “go out of the world.” Let us resolve to seek both refuge and strength in our religion.