Prayer of Presence:
Living in the Most High’s shelter, camping in the Almighty’s shade, I say to the Lord, You are my refuge, my stronghold! You are my God – the one I trust! … Psalm 91:2
Scripture: Today’s reading is from Psalm 107:23-32
Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the mighty waters; they saw the deeds of the Lord, his wondrous works in the deep. For he commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea. They mounted up to heaven, they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in their calamity; they reeled and staggered like drunkards, and were at their wits’ end.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out from their distress; he made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad because they had quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven.
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind. Let them extol him in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders.
This portion of Psalm 107 is symbolic of the troubling storms and seas of life from which the redeemed have been delivered by God’s saving grace. The only basis for deliverance from this inadvertent calamity is that the people in distress and at their wits end cry out to the Lord which in turn sets the Lord’s saving action into motion, bringing them out of their troubles and into haven.
No one is exempt from the reality of tragedies, troubles, suffering, and pain that are a natural part of the world in which we live. In Job 14:1 we read: Man, born of woman,
lives but a few days, and full of trouble. Troubles and the pain and suffering they cause people are real. Troubles and suffering get our attention and can bring us to our wits end. In those times, we can have the assurance that God is near in the midst of our troubles and suffering. We can turn our eyes and lift up our hearts toward God for help. C.S. Lewis said it so well in his book The Problem of Pain: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain; it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
When I look back over the years, I realize that the troubles I’ve lived through have been beneficial to me in several ways. They have helped shape my character, disciplined my spiritual life with God, and they have provided me with the hard-knock life experiences to compassionately help or minister to others in their troubles.
We cannot insulate ourselves from the troubles and suffering that are part of the natural world in which we live. Jesus acknowledged this when he said in John 16:33: I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In the world you have trouble and suffering, but have courage–I have conquered the world.
As people of faith, our ultimate peace and safety does not wholly depend on our wits, our peace and safety depends on our nearness to God, the one who is a cry away, who sees our affliction, and delivers us over and over again in this life, and who will deliver us into Christ’s promised haven in the eternal life to come.
The chorus to the hymn, "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms" was begun by Anthony Showalter, who was leading a singing school in an Alabama church in 1887. Showalter returned to the boarding room one night and found two letters from former students waiting for him. Both of the men told of the recent loss of their wives. Showalter searched for a bible verse to include in a letter he wrote back to comfort the grieving men. He came upon Deuteronomy 33:27, The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms …. and wrote the chorus for the hymn. A friend of his, Elisha Hoffman, completed the famous hymn with the rest of the words. The final stanza of the hymn is appropriate to today’s devotion.
What have I to dread, what have I to fear,
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
I have blessed peace with my Lord so near,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.
Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms;
Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms…
Questions for Reflection: