God is our strong refuge; he is truly our helper in times of trouble…He says, “Stop your striving and recognize that I am God! I will be exalted over the nations! I will be exalted over the earth!” The Lord who commands armies is on our side! The God of Jacob is our protector!
(Psalm 46:1, 10-11, NET)
In September of 2014 Heidi and I were serving a church in in Sheboygan Wisconsin. If you’ve ever been to Wisconsin in September, you know that every single person has one thing on their mind. No, not back-to-school sales or apple cider…everyone is obsessed with the Green Bay Packers! 2014 was no exception. But in late September of 2014, the beloved Pack had lost two of their first three games—and looked terrible in the process. The entire state was in shock, barely able to function in the midst of this calamity. But then Packers’ quarterback and legend Aaron Rodgers famously went on his radio show and spoke these words,
“Five letters here, just for everybody out there in Packer-land: R-E-L-A-X! “Relax. We’re going to be OK!”
Turns out he was right! The Packers thumped the Bears the following Sunday, went on to win eleven of their next thirteen games (including going undefeated at home), won their division and made it to the NFC Championship game before losing a heartbreaker in overtime to the Seattle Seahawks.
Sometimes, the best thing we can do in times of trouble is to let go and trust the one who’s got it under control.
In Psalm 46, the songwriter is celebrating the One who is truly in control (nope, not Aaron Rodgers). The song begins with a strong declaration, “God is our refuge! God is our helper in troubled times!” We have nothing to fear, ever! If the earth shakes, or even if the mountains fall into the sea…God’s got this! (vs. 2-3) When nations are in an uproar, when kingdoms are overthrown…He is in control! (vs. 6-7) He brings rivers of life to rescue the thirsty city under siege (vs. 4-5). This God of heaven’s armies can bring devastation to the earth (vs 8) and He can even bring an end to the folly of human warfare (vs. 9).
That sounds awesome! But if that’s all true, what are we supposed to do in times of trouble?
In verse 10, God answers that nagging question for us: “Stop your striving, and recognize that I am God!” Or as I learned it in another translation, “Be still, and know that I am God.”
Be still! Stop your striving! The root of the Hebrew word used there in verse 10 is RAPHAH, which literally translates as R-E-L-A-X. Relax, let go, stop striving, be still…I’ve got this! Whatever this is, God is in control. Are you concerned about climate change and our never-ending rain? Are you burdened by a government that seems broken and headed off the cliff? Do you worry about war in the Middle East, the economy, our slippery cultural morals? Raphah! God’s got this!
God is in control; and ultimately, God wins.
Of course, relaxing doesn’t mean that we don’t care…or that we don’t work hard to address the problems in our world. It’s not a spiritually misguided fatalism that assumes the world is going to hell anyway, so why bother doing anything. But it’s also not a misguided, triumphal humanism that assumes everything depends on us and we can solve all of our own problems. Relaxing in God’s control means that we live and work in the confidence that our God is fighting for us. He’s not off somewhere, unconcerned with our problems. And He’s not out to get us either! No, “The God who commands armies is on our side!” Raphah!
In Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount, he tells his disciples not to worry about anything (Matthew 6:25-34). Why? Because God’s got this. Raphah! Paul, in his letter to the Philippian church, echoes Jesus’ words, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6) Raphah! God’s got this! Paul then goes on to give us the secret to having a contented life. The secret is not that I should do nothing, but that, “I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:11-13)
Try giving your deepest cares and problems to the God of heaven’s armies; practice a little Christ-focused contentment today. Relax in him and let him give you strength. It’s not that our problems don’t matter, and it’s not that there is nothing we can do to tackle them; but it’s only through God’s strength that any of our efforts can ever make a difference.
So, six letters here, just for anyone out there in God’s world. R-A-P-H-A-H. Relax…let go…God’s got this. You don’t need to be anxious. Just remember to always stay thirsty for Him!