Walking into class that morning I had no idea what awaited me. Fifteen minutes into the lecture, I got the text from my wife I hoped wouldn’t come: “we need to bring him tomorrow.” We’d been caring for a little boy for one month, a little boy who quickly stole our hearts and became our son. Perhaps if we’d looked at the signs, it was obvious that he would not stay with us forever. Whatever the case, when the text came, I lost it. A sense of grief and loss overwhelmed me. I walked out of class, called my wife, and we grieved together.
One place where it is safe to grieve is at Bethlehem College & Seminary. The ministry of Pastor John instills in the faculty, students, and staff that the Christian life is not a life free of suffering, but one where we find joy in the midst of suffering. Psalm 46:1 captures the heart of this theology, “God is a refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” In this life trouble, suffering, pain, and loss are not anomalies, but they make up the background of life. The sin-soaked soil and the curse-wrought nations create the hostile world in which we live. Christians must see that their hope is not in a life free of pain and trouble, but that Christ is an island of hope in the sea of suffering. God himself is the refuge protecting his people from the pulsing waves, and he is the strength keeping the walls from weakening. Though the world crashes around his people, “God will help her when morning dawns.” (v. 5) It is God’s presence with his people that gives us hope.
This psalm points the reader to trust in God’s promises. He is always “present” with us. He is always able to be found. His children simply need to hope in him, trust in his “precious and very great promises.” (2 Peter 1:4) In this psalm, trusting God is clinging to his sovereign power over nature and the nations (v.10) and his presence with us (vv.1, 5, 7, 11). God is with us as Emmanuel (Matt 1:23), he is with us in the storm (Mark 4), he is with us as we go out (Matt 28:18–20), and he will be with us forever (Rev 21). In Psalm 45:6, the psalmist calls the royal messiah, God. Psalm 46 picks up on this theme and points readers to the God-man as refuge. It is this God-man whom we see in Jesus. Jesus is with us, he lived and died, so that we may be reconciled to God and therefore be with God forever.
As I walked back into class, the men surrounded me with comforting words, hugs, and prayers. These brothers wept with me as I wept, as they’ve also rejoiced with me as I’ve rejoiced. They reminded me that God is with me in my suffering. These brothers reminded me that God is a very present help in times of trouble. The reminded me of that the God-man, Jesus, of Psalm 46 is with me always. Last week Cameron highlighted the power of doing seminary as a cohort brings to our education. His post summarizes why I came to Bethlehem. This is why we need the church, to remind us that our God drew us, who were far, near to him, and that he’ll be with us forever.