Times of trouble


Scripture: Psalm 46. Nigel Bunce


Psalm 46 is the basis of Martin Luther’s great hymn Ein feste burg (A safe stronghold our God is still …). This psalm reminded the people of Israel that God is in charge, though we do not recognize this is the case. That’s because God’s role is not to rescue humanity from all our problems. God, in other words, is not Santa Claus.

What’s the relevance of Psalm 46 to Advent in 2021?

Aren’t we supposed to be celebrating Joy, the Advent theme for the next, the third Sunday of Advent?

But joy isn’t exactly the same thing as happiness or contentment. It’s more ephemeral. An emotion of great delight, from something exceptionally good or satisfying. It’s keen pleasure; or elation.

We feel delight or elation that the Light of Christ has come near. However, Advent is also the time when we wait in the darkness for the Light of Christ to return to the world on December 25th. For those of us in the northern hemisphere, this coincides with the darkest time of the year, when the days are short and the nights are long. Images of darkness resonate at this season.

Times of trouble

The past nearly two years have been a time of great trouble – for some people more than others. Has God really been (in the words of the psalm) “a very present help in time of trouble” since early 2020? On that, I can only repeat that God isn’t Santa Claus. God promises only to be the One with whom “we find our rest in thee.”

For example, people on both the eastern and western extremities of Canada are suffering from terrible flooding. These are hard times and there are no quick fixes. Repairs to damaged and lost infrastructure may take months or even years.

Why did the pandemic happen? When will it end? These are hard times and there are no quick fixes. We look for answers (but find none). Maybe COVID will become endemic, something we will have to live with long term, like the flu.

We have all experienced losses. Some are worse than others. Business people worry that disrupted supplies will ruin their livelihoods. Some people have lost their jobs. Others grieve the thousands of people who died prematurely. We can’t bring them back. These are hard times and there are no quick fixes. We can only pray that, in time, we will recover from our griefs and that things will be brighter in the new year.

Serenity Prayer

And so we pray this Serenity prayer:

God, grant us the Serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the Courage to change the things we can, and the Wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardship as the pathway to peace. Taking this world as it is, and not as we would have it. Trusting that God will make all things right and that we may be reasonably happy in this life, and supremely happy with him forever in the next. Amen.