God is Our Refuge

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,
though the earth should change, . . .
“Be still, and know that I am God!”
. . . the God of Jacob is our refuge.

Psalm 46, NRSV

A colleague in ministry called me recently. A phone call! Not a Zoom session, not a scheduled meeting, not an email or text. It was a spontaneous human connection. Her unexpected intrusion into my Monday morning was a welcome reminder that God is with us, a very present help in time of trouble.

We talked about the challenges of life since COVID. We shared what was weighing on our hearts—the difficulties of social distancing, disrupted activities, and stresses on family life. As we talked, I looked out the window of my home office and took notice of in incoming squall. Huge, puffy snowflakes were coming down, quickly and silently covering everything in view, adding to the layers of whiteness I had shoveled only a few days before. The words of the psalmist echoed, though the earth should change . . . .

“I like the snow,” I remarked to my friend as we each stared out our respective windows in wonderment. Snow was upending plans for work and school, adding to our chores for the day. Yet, the disruption seemed to validate the world as it has become. Here was a visible, tangible affirmation of the long winter of COVID we have experienced for nearly a full year. The weather mirrored our reality. God is in the midst of the city.

“Be still, and know that I am God!” Even as God’s battle cry resounds across the earth, we await the cessation of wars. Our troubles are not over. Loved ones continue to die. The nations are in an uproar. Life with COVID has seemed an unendurably long Lent. Would that this wilderness experience last only forty days! Yet, during this season of preparation, we will not fear. God is our refuge and strength. Friends, during this COVID Lent—no matter how many days it may last— the God of Jacob is our refuge. We can be assured of God’s steadfastness even as we lament, grieve, repent, hope, and celebrate. God is big enough to encompass the full range of our human experiences and emotions. The Psalms attest to this. And through worship, liturgy, rituals, and sacraments, the church provides us means to connect with God in all seasons of life. No matter the mode of technology or social distancing, God is with us. God is our refuge and strength.

This post originally appeared in the weekly newsletter of the Penn Central Conference of the United Church of Christ, March 10, 2021.