Do you have friends who’d benefit from regular devotionals like this?
Do let them know about being Friends of Union so we can encourage them too.
by Michael Reeves
Dear friends of Union, thank you so much for standing with us. And we want to bless you in return. So here’s a little devotional just for you.
I’d like to give you Psalm 46 as a mental health pill to keep in your pocket. Would you turn to it with me?
Psalm 46 is sometimes thought of as “Luther’s psalm” for how it inspired his battle hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” And it was a psalm especially precious to Luther, who struggled with the overwhelming pressures of the Reformation and was known by his friends, when feeling cast down, to say to them, “Come, let us sing the forty-sixth psalm.” Let’s see why.
1 God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
6 The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
8 Come, behold the works of the Lord,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
Now, those opening words of verse 1, so well known, so simple … so hard to really trust, are the first step to health. God is our refuge and strength. Not our abilities, not our hard work. God is our refuge and strength. That is ultimately what keeps us from being overwhelmed.
Even though, verse 2, everything crumbles around us. When our situation is utterly beyond us and bludgeons us to our knees, God is our refuge and strength. Never failing, never forgetful of his own, as kind as he is sovereign.
In fact, he is not just our safety. He is our strength, because he is our supply. Verse 4: “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.” In the place where God is to be found, there is a never-ending, ever-refreshing source of life. For our God is the fountain of living waters. “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’” (John 7:37–38)—meaning that the righteous who come to him are “like a tree [of life] planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither” (Ps. 1:3).
He is our refuge and river, our safety and supply. This is why, of our four values at Union (Delighting in God, Growing in Christ, Serving the Church, Blessing the World)—this is why the first is first. For you will not grow in Christ or truly serve the church or bless the world if you don’t first delight in God. It’s not just a sweet devotional nicety, an optional extra for when times are easy. Without being planted at the river, continually drawing your nourishment there, you will wither.
The church is only strong because, verse 5, God is in the midst of her. And so it is for every believer. Left to herself, Jerusalem proved she was as vulnerable as anywhere else. Without him, we will be shaken, we will crumble. But he is the one who utters with his voice and stills the storm. He is the one who cannot be thrown off balance or knocked off his loving purpose.
The one who is with us is the Lord of hosts—that is, the Lord of armies. Every molecule in the cosmos is directed by the commander of the armies—the hosts—of the Lord, who is with us.
So now, what should we do to grab hold of this comfort and so fight that slide into overwhelmed spiritual exhaustion? Psalm 46 gives a double-barrelled answer. First, verse 8: “Come, behold the works of the Lord.” Now, the word “behold” there: it’s stronger and more emphatic than a simple command to “look” at the works of the Lord. It’s a call to gaze and meditate.
And friends, that distinction is crucial for your spiritual health. For you can mentally register truths without them ever affecting you. You can sign up to the highest view of the character and sovereignty of God and still not enjoy or be shaped by those truths. Thomas Watson said, “The reason we come away so cold from reading the Word is because we do not warm ourselves at the fires of meditation.” That is, we look but don’t gaze. We don’t deliberately and slowly hold our focus and so shape our perspective.
So friends, “Come, behold the works of the Lord.” Gaze on all his ways—and especially, how through desolations—through suffering, pain, and death, through the cross—he overcomes suffering, pain, and death, and makes wars cease to the end of the earth.
The second part of the answer to how we get comfort and fight being overwhelmed is similar, and comes in verse 10: “Be still, and know that I am God.” Like the command not just to look but to slowly behold, this is an order to cease. The commander says, “At ease! Stop. Stop trying to run the world and take it all on. Be still for a moment, and know that I am God.” For as he increases and we decrease, a load comes off us.
Friends, here is the refuge and the river that will guard and refresh you when life threatens to overwhelm you. Don’t leave it till the crisis hits to retreat for a spiritual fix. The more you behold, the more steadfast and fresh you will be.
May the Lord continue to bless you richly, friends!
Past Friends of Union Devotionals