Biologists speak of an inborn “fight or flight” response by which living beings respond to situations of danger. Today’s reading from Psalm 46 offers us a decidedly different counsel.
No one would argue with the instinct to preserve our life in the presence of a threat from outside. The picture of the situation of danger and chaos painted here by the psalmist is vivid, speaking of mountains that “shake in the heart of the sea,” and seas whose waters “roar and foam,” giving us the mental image of an earthquake and a flood taking place simultaneously.
A few people I have spoken with lately would say that is exactly the way their life feels at the moment. Between jobs that are lost, marriages that are in a state of crisis, crushing depression that has set in, and sometimes even addictions on top of everything else, it is an earthquake, flood, and forest fire all at once.
But instead of being guided by the instinct to run away (flight) or resist violently (fight), the psalmist’s prescription is to, “Be still.” And not just to be passively still, but to “be still and know” the power and authority of God. What happens when we follow the psalmist’s advice is that we come to see that God’s stability is greater than the stability of the shaking mountain. It is a thousand times deeper and more peaceful than the boiling sea. God is the only foundation on which we can build a life that will not crack or buckle under pressure. God is – in the words of the famous hymn written by Martin Luther – “a mighty fortress,” capable of withstanding everything.
Be still. Know. Trust in God’s mercy and provision. Never doubt God’s ability to provide, even during the most frightening times of your life.