Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God.”
It rained all day yesterday--a nasty, cold rain that was sometimes mixed with little wet snowballs. Ruckus understood that the nastiness outside would have a direct effect on his walks, and he did not ask to go out unless it was truly necessary. Gatsby (the cat), however, had no such wells of acceptance. He stood at the door and cried to go out. I opened the door. He turned up his nose and refused to go out. But did he settle down? No. He went downstairs to the other door and cried at that one. I opened it. He turned up his nose and refused to go out. He went back upstairs to the other door. I opened the door. He looked up at me and hollered as if to say, “Fix this unacceptable situation!”
Ruckus was disappointed, but made the best of his situation and focused on his bone. Gatsby spent the day completely agitated, offended that neither of his options was completely to his liking. The difference between them reminds me of the saying I’ve seen on T-shirts that reads, “Dogs have masters, cats have staff.”
There are, of course, implications for our faith. There are many situations in life that are simply beyond our control, and how we respond to them determines whether our days are spent in relative contentment or agitation. While we might first think of the large and often tragic issues that come our way, I think that across the course of a lifetime there are more days lost to the agitation of the small issues than the large ones. And it is the lessons of the small agitations that help us develop the patience to cope with the larger things when they hit.
That patience is grounded in the faith of Psalm 46. Be still…calm down…and know that one who loves you is God. This is the Psalm from which Martin Luther’s famous hymn “A Mighty Fortress” is taken. God has us covered. That doesn’t mean there will be no storms or battles. It doesn’t mean life will be laid out the way we planned it or in a way that is entirely comfortable for us. The first line of the Psalm tells us that God is a very present help in trouble. It doesn’t say there will be no trouble. Verse two says, “Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” The external situation there is pretty dire—sounds like a scene from An Inconvenient Truth! But faith directs us not to fear, no matter what the circumstances. We can take action, but we are not to fear.
Ultimately, that’s where we are in this Lenten season. Starting with Ash Wednesday and trudging right through to Good Friday we wrestle down the ultimate fear, the fear of death. And in the stillness of the tomb on Holy Saturday we hear, “Be still, and know that I am God.” It doesn’t seem okay. Dead is not okay. We cry out to God like the cat at the door, “Fix this unacceptable situation!”
Easter is a response to that cry. So is Psalm 46. So is the famous 1926 prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr known now as The Serenity Prayer. Mostly we know the first phrases, but I will close with it here in its entirety.
GOD, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I 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, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it.
Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life, and supremely happy with Him forever in the next. Amen.
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