God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.
“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
PSALM 46:1-3, 10-11 (ESV)
There was a season in my life where I was having regular, weekly panic attacks. Though my life at the time seemed perfect by most standards – loving and supportive wife, beautiful daughter, fulfilling job, great friends – I couldn’t shake the weight of sadness that seemed to grow heavier on my spirit by the day. I found myself hiding moments of terror as best I could, seeking space to be alone, somewhere quiet where I might try to calm myself down as quickly as possible.
In these episodes I would find it difficult to breathe and impossible to think. My body would often shake, even in a warm room. I would wretch, though my stomach was empty. I was crippled by fear, and it seemed I was falling apart, each subsequent attack leaving me more and more broken.
Eventually I hit a wall. The truth, I knew, was that I had been running so hard from deep issues I needed to face and toward things I thought might bring temporary relief. Of course, nothing I did could fix me. Everything seemed to make it all worse. With no way forward and no path out, I had no choice but to sit and wait. I had to give up. The chaos continued all around me, but God sat me down in the storm.
Nobody encounters God and keeps going on their merry way. Throughout Scripture, when people are confronted by the presence of the Most High, they fall to the ground, on their knees, in a mix of awe and reverence. Sure, we can see God in creation and in the way He works things together for good, but when God chooses to reveal His glory in power, it always stops people right in their tracks.
We know God is always present, always moving and working in ways visible and hidden. But more than a mere conductor, the Bible shows us that God dwells with us. It’s not enough that He is around. He wants to show us that He’s here. And for us to really grasp what it means for God to dwell with us, He has to show us in power. You’re going to need to sit down for this one, He seems to say.
The greatest way for Him to dwell with us is in His saving power. In the Old Testament, the Exodus event became the foundation of the worship of God. The Israelites hit a dead end, and when they were stopped, He showed up and made a way forward. On the other side of His power and manifest presence, they lifted up shouts and songs of praise. As incredible as that event was, in the New Covenant, we see God’s power in an even greater way. Jesus walks among us. He heals, and he sets free. He dies for us and lives again for us. When we stop and acknowledge our sin, we are confronted by his amazing grace and fall to our knees.
God makes himself known in our distress. He shows Himself present in our weakness. I have learned walking with God out of my season of pain that when I had nowhere to run, He was right there with me. When nothing was working, when I threw my hands in the air in surrender, I found that God was working for me all along.
This great God, unshakable and steady, tells us, shivering and frantic, to come forward and learn how to stand. He stops us with His power. He calms us with His voice. He holds us with His love. And after the panic and the fear and the worry begin to subside, we find the foundation that never cracks or shifts. Our hearts begin to rest, and we stop and see. “The Lord of hosts is with us.”
God, when I am in the throes of panic,
Be the breath I cannot grasp.
When I am running scared from worry,
Be the peace I know will last.
And when I’ve nothing more to offer,
No course of action left to take,
Show me that You’re always working,
Always moving for my sake.
Sit me down, show me Your glory,
Make my heart a home to fill.
Though waters swell, earth shakes before me,
Because You’re present, I am still.
When was the last time circumstances forced you to “be still” in helplessness or surrender, and trust God to be your strength? How did He respond? What might it change in your life today to remember that the same God who moved then is moving now? In what area of your life do you need to stop and see God work?