Psalm 46:1 contains a description of God and a wonderful promise based on His character: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” The next verse continues with what should be our natural response: “Therefore we will not fear” (verse 2).
In Psalm 46, the poet describes various kinds of disasters and the chaos that mark our existence in this broken and sinful world. He alludes to natural disasters such as earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides, and floods (verses 2 and 3). He mentions the elements of war and violence in verses 8 and 9. But, through it all, “we will not fear” (verse 2).
The various distresses the psalmist lists are an occasion to take note of God’s help. He is our refuge, our strength, and an ever-present help in troubled times. In the hardships of this life, we find safety and rest in God. The world is unstable, but “the city of God”—His habitation—is established and secure (Psalm 46:4–6). No matter what happens in this world, God will be exalted, and those who are His will ultimately be safe (verses 10–11). We can “be still and know” that He is God (verse 10).
The structure of Psalm 46 is beautiful. Verses 2 and 3 along with verses 8 and 9 describe disasters and trials. But verses 1, 4–7 and 10–11 describe God’s power and safety in the midst of those difficulties. So the trouble is bracketed by God’s promises; the verses about the difficulties of life are graphically “surrounded” by verses about the power and safety of the Lord. This is an amazing picture. Like a mother or father who hugs and comforts a fearful and upset child, God surrounds us and protects us in our difficulties. Note that the psalmist doesn’t state that God will remove us from the difficulty; rather, God will protect us and glorify Himself in the midst of the difficulty.
He is our refuge. God provides safety. We take shelter in our relationship with Him (cf. Proverbs 18:10).
He is our strength. God gives us the power we need to endure hardship as we serve Him, fight spiritual battles, resist temptation, and bear up under persecution. We are weak, but He is strong (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:10).
He is an ever-present help in trouble. God is at hand. He is not far away from us but nearby to assist us in the tasks He has assigned (cf. Psalm 145:18).
Here are some points of application:
1. There are two groups described in Psalm 46. One group is protected by the Lord, and one group fights against the Lord. If we would experience God’s protection, we must belong to Him through faith in Jesus Christ. Have you been saved by God through believing in the death and resurrection of Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins and eternal life? Can you truly say, “God is my refuge”?
2. True peace will not come until we are with the Lord in “the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells” (Psalm 46:4). This means that, in this world, we may experience hurt, and, eventually, we will die. But in the midst of it all, God is working everything out for good (see Romans 8:28). For those who belong to God, even the bad stuff has a good end! We are eternally safe.
3. The ultimate goal is to exalt and glorify God. This is the purpose of your life. As you rest in His protection during the difficulties of this life, you are showing the goodness and power of God. Thus, no matter what happens, trust Him. Even if things don’t seem to turn out as you would like, remember that you are not home yet.
Because God promises to be our refuge and strength, we do not fear. Because He is an ever-present help in trouble, those who belong to Him can commit their way to Him and take their rest. God is saying, “Be still. Trust me. I’ve got this.”