I was listening this week to one of the radio talk back programs where the host was reflecting on a number of tragedies that he had become aware of recently. One of which was the serious injury experienced by a young professional rugby league player last weekend, the result of which seems to be that the young man may have to spend the rest of his life severely paralysed. The host spent some time reflecting on the great tragedy this is and how sad for the man’s family and friends, as indeed it is. He also referred to another recent case of a young professional golfer who has discovered he has serious cancer, and has already lost part of a leg as a result.
However the thing that struck me most about what I was listening to was the talk back host’s expression of feelings of helplessness and powerlessness. He wasn’t saying that nothing could be done to support the young man, he was planning to get involved in that, but it was more an expression of helplessness in the face of a great evil.
This is something that can be noted in Australia in general when evil strikes. One event I have always thought of in this context is the Bali bombings of 2005. Many Australians were tragically killed in that perpetration of evil and many of the families and friends went back to Bali one year after to take part in a Hindu ‘Releasing of the Spirits’ ceremony for the victims. Many of these would have ticked the Christian, Anglican box etc. on the ABS census yet they seemed to be so lacking any spiritual resource to cope with evil that they would grasp anything to try and deal with what they faced, even a ritual from another religion of which they had no understanding. This was the same feeling I had listening to the talk back host this week—a total lack of the spiritual resources to deal with evil. This is a symptom of the loss of any God-centred, resilient, robust Christian faith by our society in general, the type of faith demonstrated by the writer of Psalm 46, particularly in the words “Be still and know that I Am God.”
Psalm 46 is a song of confidence, by someone who knows that even when all the wheels are falling off his life, when he is under extreme threat, when he is facing extreme evil (poetically expressed as “the earth gives way and the mountains fall into the sea”) God is his fortress (refuge) and strength. The Psalmist encourages us to “Be still and know that I am God”. The words “be still” literally mean ‘relax’ i.e. ’rest’ in God – even when everything seems to be going wrong! The Psalmist can say this because he knows that no matter what, God is with him, journeying with and working for him.
Of course the ’know’ in “know that I am God” is a relational word, meaning having a personal relationship with God, far deeper than a mere intellectual knowledge of God.
This is a Psalm that reminds us that for those that truly belong to God He is always standing with us even in the greatest tragedy, enabling us to cope, to stand and endure in the darkest valleys of life; that it is in “knowing” Him (i.e. trusting and depending on our relationship with God through Christ) that we are enabled to persevere even in the face of unexpected, seemingly unjust great evils. The person with true faith is not surprised by the event of evil because they understand we live in a fallen world. Additionally, they do not feel ‘powerless’ because they ‘know’ i.e. have a relationship with the God who loved them infinitely in Jesus on the Cross, and they can ’trust’ that he will never let them go no matter what. (John 10:28,29). It is this type of faith that gives, and has given, Christians throughout history the ‘spiritual muscle’ to face even the worst tragedies. It is a spiritual resource so lacking in our society in general and this is demonstrated every time some great evil occurs.
But for those who truly are Christ’s, even in the blackest times, we can “Be still and know that he is God.”