An Ever-present Help

Social isolation is a term that has saturated the collective conscious of most Americans. I admit I am tired of hearing the term and even more so of practicing it. Like most things, it’s the putting-it-into-action part I found most trying. Regardless of whether we are introverted or extroverted, being alone has the tendency to bring out the best and worst in us. To be sure, it does offer time for things like self-improvement, reading, cooking, taking online classes and long walks, etc., but it can also provide a context for dealing with an overwhelmingly complex topic: ourselves. On the whole though, reflecting deeply about ourselves is a positive thing; what’s more, it’s biblical! It brings into sharp focus things for which we are thankful, as well as areas of our lives that need to be improved, e.g., our habits, our relationships things which, under normal circumstances, we successfully keep at bay.
The Christian tradition has long stressed the need for self-examination. There is even an entire book in the Bible that has this as one of its primary aims. Of course, I’m referring to the collection of poetic meditations known as the Psalms. The Psalms have fallen out of favor in many Christian traditions, but I am delighted they still play a prominent role within all the liturgies of our prayer book. The Psalms are important because they are very relatable. They cover the full gamut of human experience and they don’t gloss over things like fear, anger or sadness. The Psalms are, as the Swiss Reformer John Calvin described them, “an anatomy of all the parts of the soul.” They arouse our emotions and speak to all parts of life.
One particular Psalm that was put on my heart this week is Psalm 46. It contains the beautiful and well-known verse: “Be still, and know that I am God!” Some call this Psalm a Psalm of confidence because it shows God offers help during times of trouble. In verses 1 3, the Psalmist depicts a world in chaos and turmoil: “We will not fear, though the earth should change.” (v.2) What follows is a list of natural disasters like earthquakes and storms the type of life events that are out of our control. It is sobering to know we are not in control. It rails against our modern sensibilities. Despite our best efforts, we as humans are not, as William Ernest Henley suggested, “masters of our fate,” nor are we “captains of our souls.” Yet, as hard as this is to hear, it’s actually good news. That’s because there is one who is in control: God! What’s more, in verses 4 7, we learn despite what happens to us, God is with us (literally “ever-present”). As Christians, we see this reality fulfilled in Jesus Christ. In Matthew 28, just before His ascension into heaven, Jesus tells His disciples, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) In other words, when we are dealing with the chaos of life or even experiencing long periods of social isolation, we can find confidence in Christ’s presence within us. This is good news indeed! It is my prayer over the next few weeks each of us would experience a heightened sense of Christ’s presence within us and that we may be “strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy.” (Colossians 1:11)
“Be still, and know that I am God!
The Lord of hosts is with us.”
Psalm 46:10, 11

The Rev. Alex D. Graham III
Associate for Children and Family Ministries