“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” - Psalm 46:1, 7
In light of the CDC’s urging to limit gatherings from 250 to 50 to 10, the leadership of our church made the difficult decision of suspending all of our services for at least 15 days. It very well may last longer, robbing us of the fullness of the pinnacle-celebration of the church’s calendar known as Holy Week.
What would otherwise be a time of great joy appears to have already become a sign of indefinitely bleak times. Yet there is hope for the hopeless and comfort in sadness; there is victory in the face of fear and defeat. There’s even consolation for those who merely wonder when life will return to normal. That hope, that victory, that consolation is all found in God’s Word.
By way of example: we’re told in John 6:1-15 that Jesus fed 5,000 followers, not including women and children, with only five barley loaves and two fish. Not only was there enough for all to have their fill, but 12 baskets full of leftovers were collected.
The miracle shows us many things. Firstly, we’re shown not only that we ought to give thanks for God’s provisions, but also that Jesus gave thanks on our behalf, because we often fail to.
Secondly, when these people were hungry and without food, Jesus provided for them, and He provided abundantly. While there certainly is more to be gained from this passage, those few things are reminders of God’s will toward all people: that we would see God as the One who provides, and also that when He gives, He gives abundantly.
That abundance is also what the Psalmist is conveying with the words above “a very present help in trouble,” that God not only helps those who trust in Him, but He helps, comforts and consoles abundantly.
That abundance flows out of the ultimate purpose of Jesus’s life: it was to reconcile a broken, sinful, and troubled humanity to the God of mercy and grace.
That is what Christ accomplished for all on the cross on Good Friday and confirmed by His resurrection on Easter Sunday. All of God’s Word, which is contained in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, point us to this as the foundation for all true and lasting hope.
Whether we’re refraining from meeting at our church building, or even confining ourselves completely to our homes, there is hope and help amidst what can feel like very scary times.
I’m reminded of Isaac Watts’ famous hymn “O God, Our Help in Ages Past”
“Under the shadow of Thy throne Thy saints have dwelt secure; Sufficient is Thine arm alone, And our defense is sure. O God, our help in ages past, Our hope for years to come, Be Thou our guard while troubles last And our eternal home!”