I was called to lead a retreat for a small group of pastors from the greater Los Angeles area. They reserved a Franciscan retreat center in Malibu. It was beautiful. The photo is of the place we had our devotional time the first morning we were there. Long before arriving, I had chosen to focus our reflection that morning on Psalm 46.
As we stood there I read:
“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,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging. Selah.”
I have read this psalm many times, but as we paused to reflect on these words, I looked out at the vast Pacific Ocean. Then I thought about the hill I was standing on and noticed the angled layers of the hills across the small canyon indicating an uplifting of that rock at some point deep in history. I considered the fact that I was a mere 60 miles from the San Andreas fault. I suddenly realized that right there and then, the earth really could give way, the mountains really could fall into the heart of the sea, the waters really could roar and foam, and the mountains really could quake. I was awestruck and felt unsettled. Maybe the psalmist felt something similar.
But as I read on, my unsettled feelings were quieted by the assurance that even though there is chaos on every side, God is with us. God is our refuge, our fortress, our strength. We are helpless in the face of the power of nature and nations. But God merely lifts his voice, and the earth melts. This powerful word of God is the same word that created us, redeemed us, and will one day complete the new creation that has begun in us. Our hope in the promise of the new heavens and new earth is secure because of the power of God’s mighty word.