Very Present

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One of the church’s most beloved psalms throughout history has been Psalm 46. Inspired by its truths, Martin Luther wrote the timeless hymn “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.”

The psalm celebrates the invincibility of God’s purposes, God’s people, and God’s promises. This celebration is grounded the reality of God’s presence.

The opening line makes this clear, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Troubled yet triumphant because trusting in the certainty of God’s presence.

The promise of God’s presence is always an encouragement but the writer drive home this assurance with the word “very.”  God is a very present help. How present? Let pastor Charles Spurgeon answer: “He is more present than friend or relative can be …. more present than even the trouble itself.” I love that.

Recently, I meditated upon this while on a very long run. As aches and pains of an aging body announced their presence, I was comforted that Yahweh was even closer. I’m aware that the sons of Korah were thinking of something far more serious and significant than recreational running when they wrote this (Sidebar: I recently saw a T-shirt with the words, “I can do all things through a verse taken out of context,” which well applies here!), yet it was an encouragement to argue from the greater to the lesser.

What an empowering truth to dwell upon! God is “more present than even the trouble itself.” You and I need this reminder, especially as the presence of a long night of COVID-19 seems to be a presence that we cannot escape. “Enough already!” we want to shout. The tragedy of this virus, with all its painful and frustrating and sometimes fearful consequences, seems to be omnipresent. It seems inescapable. In recent days, many of our members have had their plans and schedules upended by the resurgence of infections. School openings have been postponed, business plans scuttled, flights cancelled, monies forfeited, and hectic last-minute arrangements organised. Not to mention the more serious health issues arising, including hospitalisations and even the death of family and friends. In the past week, my in-laws attended four funerals of friends who succumbed to COVID-19. Troubles are present. But according to Scripture, God is more present. He is verypresent. We need this reminder.

When we think of something being “present” we are usually thinking spatially. We are thinking of something or someone who is visible. That which is observable tends to be inherent in our definition of reality. Nevertheless the Scriptures instruct the Christian that we walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). “That which lasts” is a good definition of that which is real. Though many of our troubles are real, thankfully for the Christian, they will not last. But God will.

Brothers and sisters, without minimising many of the troubles each of us face in these days, including those you and I will face this day, I want to maximise the truth of God’s presence. Be encouraged that our faithful and loving and wise triune God is very present. Our troubles will pass, he will not. Therefore, as you begin this new week, remind yourself that God is near. Lean on and lean into the promise: “Draw near to God and will draw near to you” (James 4:8).

Troubled yet triumphant with you,

Doug