Thursday, August 12, 2010

A Place of Refuge

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, Psalm 46:1-2.  

The new millennium has experienced some of the world’s worst disasters in a period of just ten years. The tsunami of 2004 and the recent Haitian earthquake are the most memorable, while the floods in Pakistan and China and the wildfires in Russia and British Columbia currently occurring, are the latest of examples of continuing disasters throughout the world.

The ongoing conflict in the Middle east, and the atrocious wars in Sudan and Congo pale beside nuclear weapons in the hands of unstable nations like North Korea and Iran, never mind the terrorists who would also like to get their hands on a nuclear device. For a different dread, yesterday, the news declared that bed bugs are creeping across Canada from the east, and an invading superbug has landed in Vancouver.Today it's in Alberta!

It is certainly a time for vigilance. So is the psalmist’s lack of fear folly or faith? For those without belief in God, or consider Him irrelevant, they have a right to fear, for there is no escape or comfort in disaster. But the psalmist reminds us that God is involved in our sorry state, especially in times of adversity.

But the question remains: When I am being swept away by the flood, and those dearest to me have been torn from my side, how then, is God an ever-present help? Is he going to stem the flood, place me on dry land and restore my family to me? Far from considering God near, I am likely to ask why an absent God allowed these things to happen. 

While we accept that misfortune of greater of lesser magnitude will befall both those of faith as well as those without it, there is a qualitative difference on the attitude to disaster by those with faith in God. 

For one thing, their perspective is broader than the momentary troubles on earth, however horrific and devastating an event may be. They fix their eyes, not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal, 2 Cor 4:18. There is an assurance that one day they will be in a final place of security, and be re-united with those lost loved ones who departed earlier.

But of immediate comfort, so many have felt that indefinable, yet conscious, presence of God in their extremity. It seems the psalmist had that experience, a sense of God’s overshadowing and His strength to cope; that ever present help that sustained him in his adversity. Will we trust God for that same hope in whatever difficult days may lie ahead?