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In times of physical catastrophe in our lives or in our world, what is our response? Usually, it's "Why, God? Why me? Why us?" In contrast, God's Word says in times of physical catastrophe, "we will not fear" (Psalm 46:2).
In times of physical catastrophe in our lives or in our world, what is our response? Usually, it's "Why, God? Why me? Why us?" In contrast, God's Word says in times of physical catastrophe, "we will not fear" (Psalm 46:2). As you read Psalm 46:1–3, take the time to observe that the examples are all introduced with "though." "Though the earth should change, though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea." Referring to what?
Though there may be an earthquake, and the ground moves beneath you. "Though its waters roar and foam . . . " That would have reference to a flood, a tsunami, a tidal wave, the waters from a swelling river after the snow melts, or the rain that doesn't stop falling. The psalmist goes further—another catastrophe. "Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride." An avalanche! That horrible moment of looking up and seeing the tons of snow and debris, ice and rock plunging toward you. Our response? Since God is our refuge, we will not fear.
Why not? Let me repeat the promise, which makes our foundation firm. It's because the Lord our God is our chasah. He is our refuge, He is our strength (see Psalm 46:1). He's the rock. It surprises all of us, but it's no surprise to Him. Hear that, open theists. Hear that, all you who say that God is surprised by such events, having just discovered what has happened on this earth. (Give me a break!) Our God is in sovereign control of all the events of this earth. They occur exactly as He has planned or permitted them.
Then how can I explain why bad things happen? How can I resolve the ringing question, "Why, God?" I did not say our Father has explained Himself. (How, in fact, can an infinite God ever explain Himself to finite people?) I said our Father has planned or permitted the events of this earth. He has no obligation to explain Himself. The Creator does not explain why to the created. It would be like a brilliant potter explaining himself to a mass of soft clay.
Nothing surprises God. What puzzles us is permitted by our Lord, for reasons too profound to grasp. It is put together in the counsel of His own will so that it fits perfectly into His plan for His glory and for His purposes. As His servant, I say in response, "I will not fear. Though I don't understand it, I will not fear. Though You take something that's deeply significant to me, though You allow a catastrophe to strike, I will not fear. I will not blame, I will not doubt, and I will not question." There will be no out-of-control anxieties. Why? Because God is our refuge. There will be no exaggerated feelings of uneasiness, because God is our refuge. There will be no middle-of-the-night shakes. Why? Because God is our refuge. There will be no morning dread or evening desperation or lingering depression. Why? Because God is our refuge.
Martin Luther connected those dots:
And though this world with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us.1
The answer is not complicated. Selah. Pause. Rest easy. Don't expect life to make sense. Don't fear because surprises occur. Life is full of surprises, shocks, and insanities.
While feeling disturbed one night over certain atrocities that were occurring in our nation, I tossed and turned in bed, unable to sleep. I got up, walked into my study, slumped into my leather chair, and stared at my shelves of books. The small lamp we leave lit through the night gave me enough light to read one title after another.
Suddenly, my eyes shifted to my computer screen. I noticed an unopened e-mail message from a long-time friend who lives in Southern California. I clicked into it and was relieved. Among other things he asked a simple question: "Have you noticed the insights in Psalm 94:19?" Curious, I opened my Bible and read the verse: "When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, your consolations delight my soul."
Talk about a selah moment! A surge of refreshing peace rushed through me. I was reminded once again of Him who, alone, is my refuge and strength. I returned to bed and slept soundly until dawn.