Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Are You in Trouble?

Leslie Basham:  Nancy Leigh DeMoss asks, “How do you start conversations?”

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: We tend to start with our troubles. Ask somebody how they are doing. Ask me how I’m doing over these last several weeks and I’ll tell you about my troubles. That is where we tend to start: with our circumstances, with this challenge, with this pressure, with this problem.

Leslie: We’re about to hear why it doesn’t have to be that way.

This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Tuesday, October 22.

Leslie: Yesterday, Nancy began a series called "A Mighty Fortress Is our God." It's all about dealing with the storms of life.  Let’s listen.

Nancy: We started yesterday into a new series on Psalm 46. If you are just joining us, I want to invite you over these next days to open your Bible to Psalm 46 and read it, read it, and read it again and again. Perhaps memorize it, meditate on it, and join with us as we look verse by verse at this passage that God has been using in such a significant way in my own life through some storms and trials of the past several weeks. 

So this series has been born out of the crucible of real life experience. Perhaps you are going through something where you are experiencing storms and tests and trials. My prayer is that God will use this passage to be a great encouragement to your own heart. 

We started this series yesterday by taking just a broad overview of the psalm. We read the whole passage and then noted that the center focus of the whole psalm, even in times of trouble and trials, is God. Then we also notice that it is a song; that it is intended to be sung even in times of trial.

Today we want to start into the first verse. That is actually all we’ll probably look at today, Psalm 46:1. As I read this verse, I want you to notice that there are two givens. Two realities that are both addressed in this verse. I will give you a hint as I read the verse so you’ll be able to pick out the two realities. It is the first word and the last word of the verse. So let me read the verse, and then we'll talk about what these two realities are.

Psalm 46:1: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Now what are the two givens in life? You see them set out for us in this verse. The first one is God, the second one is trouble. God and trouble—you can’t get away from them. They are both ever present. 

I want us to start for a moment with the second reality, trouble. We’ll just talk about that for a moment.  Now trouble is referred to explicitly here in the last word of the verse, but it is also implied throughout this verse when it talks about the need for a refuge, the need for strength, the need for help. Those things all suggest we have trouble.

That is what makes us turn to God to be a refuge and a strength and a help. Trouble comes to all. I mean, that is not all that profound, but we need to remind ourselves of that. God didn’t just single me out to have a hard life. Hardness is part of living life in this fallen, prodigal planet.

Trouble comes to all—having what you don’t want or wanting what you don’t have. Sometimes those troubles are huge and unexpected and they come at you like a tsunami. We’ve seen images of that in the not too distant past. Sometimes those troubles are more chronic, creeping, and cumulative, you know what I mean? 

Nothing big, but it is the whole sum total of what you’re walking through that just makes you feel overwhelmed with trouble. I spent an evening recently with a small group of our ministry partners, and I thought about this as I looked around the circle, maybe a dozen of us in the room. 

One man in that group had just lost his job after seventeen years with the same company, and he doesn’t know what he’s going to do next. His wife, who was there with him, has been having an intense allergic reaction and her whole face was terribly broken out. She was in such discomfort from this allergic reaction (the itching and all), so she was struggling with that. Two different kinds of trouble in one married couple.

Then there was a woman in that group who was widowed last year, and as she’s been trying to figure out what to do with her husband’s business, she’s discovered that two longtime employees in the business turned out to be disloyal and corrupt. So now she is really struggling financially. She is not the one who knew the business and is just trying to figure it all out. She is getting ready to turn seventy. She is trying to figure out what to do with her financial situation. 

There is another man in that group who just finished a two-year struggle with cancer, multiple surgeries—trouble, trouble, trouble! And those are just the ones I knew about! Lots in that group that I didn’t know what troubles they were experiencing. 

I read emails that come in from our listeners. In any given week you’ll have listeners who are talking about troubles in their lives. But I think of one that came in last week from a woman whose husband is addicted to pornography. One day she came home and found out that he had taken everything, wiped out their bank accounts and left her destitute. Around that time she had to quit her job to become a caregiver for her elderly mother who had a severe stroke. She just poured out her heart in this email. I’m thinking, how can one person bear all this? Trouble!

I think about troubles I’ve been experiencing in my own life in recent weeks. Challenges. Things I did not plan for. They blindsided me. They caught me off guard. If I could tell you what they are . . . They are small in comparison to what some in this room are going through, but they’ve left me needing a refuge, needing strength, needing help. 

Trouble. It is an inescapable, inevitable reality in a fallen world. But it is our troubles that actually point us to the other reality, apart from which we could not survive the troubles we face. And what is that other reality? It is the first word of the verse—God. Elohim.  

The all-powerful God. In the beginning, God, Elohim, created the heavens and the earth. He is the one who created and controls all the forces of nature. Nothing in this world happens by chance or outside of His knowledge and His control. He is the sustainer of this world. By Him all things hold together, and that includes us. 

Elohim! God! He is the one who is our refuge, our strength in the midst of trouble. He is the starting point. He is a fixed reference point in a world of shifting circumstances. He is more real than any circumstance, than any trouble that may touch your life or mine this day, or in the days to come. 

Notice the order in which these two realities are brought up. Which one comes up first? God. The point of this psalm, I think, is to say, "Start with God." We tend to start with our troubles. Ask somebody how they are doing. Ask me how I’m doing over these last several weeks, and I’ll tell you about my troubles. That is where we tend to start—with our circumstances, with this challenge, with this pressure, with this problem. But this passage says, “Start with God.” 

"God is our refuge, our strength, a very present help in trouble." He is what we need in trouble. We often think of all the other things we need or wish we had: a solution, relief, someone to sympathize with us. But this passage says, "No, turn to Him. He is our refuge."

He is our refuge. That means right now, this moment, today, and always will be because He is the God of the eternal present. He is the God of the present, of what is; not just what was, or what will be, though He is the God of those as well. And not just the God of what we wish was the case, but the God of what is. He is our refuge in the midst of present trouble.

He is our refuge. I love that it doesn’t just say He is: a refuge, a fortress, a strength, a help. He is not impersonal or generic. He is a personal God who eagerly comes to the rescue and aid of His people in trouble. God is our refuge. A refuge is a person or a place to which one flees for shelter or defense or protection. I think of those Old Testament cities of refuge, to which people in distress could flee to find safety and protection. Not only does God provide a place of refuge for us, but He Himself is our refuge, our safe place.

He is the one who protects us, shelters us, and provides relief from danger and anxiety. I mentioned yesterday that the occasion of Psalm 46 may have been, and many commentators think perhaps it was, that instance when an Assyrian army, fierce Assyrian army, invaded Judah that was far outnumbered. The Assyrians had the weapons, the power, the strength. They invaded Judah, and they were tearing up all the nations around. King Sennacherib, the Assyrian king, sent an envoy to Jerusalem with a threatening letter for King Hezekiah. 

Let me read to you in 2 Kings 19 what Hezekiah did when he received that letter. 

He received the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the LORD and spread [the letter] before the LORD. Hezekiah prayed before the LORD and said, “O LORD, the God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. Incline your ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see, and hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God.

Truly, O LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands and have cast their gods into the fire, for they were not gods but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. Therefore they were destroyed. So now, O LORD, our God, save us, please, from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O LORD, are God alone. (19:14–19)

Where did Hezekiah turn for refuge when he was in trouble? To the Lord! Six times in his prayer, O Lord. O Lord. Sometimes maybe that is all you can say is, “O Lord, O Lord, O Lord! Help! I need You. God is our refuge."

Psalm 2 puts it this way. “Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (v. 12).  Some of your translations say, “Blessed are all who put their trust in him.” That is what you do with a refuge.  You run to it and you put your trust in that place of refuge.

Well, God is our refuge and our strength. He is a source of mental or emotional support when we need it—and that is all the time. We are weak and helpless, and we need His strength. He provides divine enabling in our weakness. He is the one who helps keep us strong. 

Now I should note that sometimes God shields and protects from trouble. But sometimes He ordains that we should go through the storm, and then He provides strength to endure the storm. Remember what He said to Paul when Paul cried out to be delivered from his affliction? God said, “My grace is sufficient for you." My grace is enough. "For my power [my strength] is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).

When do we find out our weakness? It is when we are in trouble, right? Our weakness showcases His power. It provides an opportunity for the display of His strength. But here is an important reminder. God only proves to be a refuge for those who actually put their trust in Him. His strength is experienced by those who recognize and acknowledge their weakness and their need.

For example, if you live in tornado territory, and we’ve seen so many images of this in recent months, you may have a safe room, a basement, a storm shelter. But when the storm comes through you’re not going to be protected unless you actually use that place of refuge. If you sit up on the top floor of your house when you have that refuge, the refuge, it isn’t going to do you any good, right? If we run anywhere to anyone or anything other than God in our trouble, we’re not going to find the refuge, the strength, and the help that we need. 

So think about some current troubles you might be experiencing or ones that you’ve been through recently. Let me ask you this question, “Where did you turn for refuge? Where are you turning for refuge? Are you seeking refuge and trusting in anything or anyone other than God?” If so, are those human, physical refuges able to protect, defend and help you?

Scripture says that God is a very present help in trouble. He is a refuge, a strength, a very present help in trouble. That word very suggests the very best quality. One Bible dictionary says it means “muchness, abundance, exceedingly.” In fact, one translation puts this first this way, “He is found an exceeding or superlative help in tribulations.” Not moderate, no quasi good, not somewhat helpful, but a very present help in trouble. Muchness, abundance, exceeding help. 

He is a very present help in trouble. That word present suggests it is now. He is a help who exists and occurs now. It suggests that He is near. He is a very accessible help, literally. When you need Him, when you need help, He’s there, He’s there!

Charles Spurgeon had this to say about this phrase, "He is a very present help in trouble." He said,

Help that is not present when we need it is of small value. The anchor which is left at home is of no use to the seaman in the hour of storm; the money which he used to have is of no worth to the debtor when a writ is out against him. . . . But as for the LORD our God, He is present when we seek Him, present when we need Him.  

He is more than "present." He is very present. More present than the nearest friends can be, for He is in us in our trouble; more present than we are to ourselves, for sometimes we lack presence of mind. [Amen about that.]  

He is always present, effectually present, sympathetically present, altogether present. He is present now if this is a gloomy season. Let us rest ourselves upon Him. He is our refuge, let us hide in Him; He is our strength, let us array ourselves with Him; He is our help, let us lean upon Him; He is our very present help, let us repose in Him now. We need not have a moment’s care or an instant's fear. "The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.”1

Now in verse 1 where it says “a very present help,” some of your Bibles will have a little note in the margin that says, “He is a well-proved help,” and that is another rendering of this verse. Very present, well-proved. You know what that says to me as I’ve been meditating on it? He’s got a perfect track record. He’s helped others who have been in trouble. He’s helped me in the past when I’ve been in trouble. If you need to go back and recount the times when you’ve seen God be a help to you or to others in trouble, He is well-proved, and therefore there is no reason to fear that He will fail to help me now. He is well-proved. 

And then He is a very present help in trouble. Trouble. That word actually in original language is a plural word. Troubles. The word means "distress, affliction, anything causing pain, suffering, calamity." Now as we look at these next verses over the next several days, we’re going to see a description of unimaginable upheaval and disasters, right here in Psalm 46.

Could I suggest that the best way to prepare for the inevitable catastrophes of life is to ground your heart in the truth of who God is before you get into the trouble. Now, if you didn’t do it before, it is not too late—turn to Him. But the best way to be prepared for trouble is in advance; to ground your heart in the truth of who God is; to develop the confident assurance that He is our refuge, our strength, a very present help in trouble.

And then when the troubles come, let your first default reaction be to run to Him; to let Him be your refuge, your strength, your help. Remembering that in the midst of trouble, wherever trouble is present, He is more present. He is there, a very present help in trouble.

You see this theme throughout Scripture. I’m now seeing it everywhere. Psalm 9: 9, “The Lord is a stronghold [or a refuge] for the oppressed. A stronghold in times of trouble.” Not just one time but every time. He is the eye in the midst of the storm; the place of calm and security and peace.

Are you in trouble? Maybe little troubles? Maybe some big troubles that are breaking your heart. Someone just said to me the last twelve months have been so difficult. I would just say the last several months in my life have been so difficult, trouble.  

Troubles I can’t control, troubles I can’t fix, troubles I can’t change. He is our refuge, our strength, our help today, right now. He will be our strength, our refuge, our help for tomorrow’s trouble and beyond.

Therefore, we can trust and rest in Him. He is our refuge, which is evidence that we need protection, a safe place, a shelter from the storm. He is our strength, which suggests that we are weak and we can’t handle these troubles on our own. He is our help, which is an acknowledgement that we are needy. We need help.

Ladies, we don’t find out all that God is and all that He can do until we’re in trouble, helpless, desperate, needy. Then we find that He really is a refuge, a strength, and help. 

Throughout this series, I want to quote a number of times from Matthew Henry’s Commentary on Psalm 46 because it is the one I found to be so rich. Now this is some quaint language; it was written hundreds of year ago. But he just had a grasp of the meaning and the application of this passage, so let me read to you a paragraph from Matthew Henry’s Commentary on Psalm 46:1.

Are we pursued? God is our refuge to whom we may flee and in whom we may be safe. . . . Are we oppressed by troubles? Have we work to do and enemies to grapple with? God is our strength to bear us up under our burdens, to fit us for all our services and sufferings; he will by his grace put strength into us, and on him we may stay ourselves. Are we in distress? He is a help, to do all that for us which we need . . . a help sufficient, a help accommodated to every case and exigence [every emergency, every extreme situation]; whatever it is, he is a very present help; we cannot desire a better help, nor shall ever find the like in any creature.2

So don’t turn to the creature, turn to the Creator. 

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss will be right back. She’s been pointing you to a mighty fortress, strong enough to protect you all the time, even when ferocious winds are whipping around you.

Do you appreciate the way Nancy takes a  biblical passage like Psalm 46, explains it in depth, and shows you what it means for your life here on a Tuesday in October? Will staying in God’s Word make a big difference on this Tuesday, then on a Wednesday, and a Thursday? Eventually studying God’s Word will have a deep effect for a lifetime. 

Would you help Revive Our Hearts continue bringing you Bible teaching like this each week day? We can only do it through the financial support of listeners. When you donate any amount today, we’ll send you a gift we’re very excited about. Here’s Nancy to tell you about it.

Nancy: Coming up next spring, we’re going to focus on the names of Jesus. You’ll hear a series during the Lenten season called “The Wonder of His Name.”

As we planned the 2014 Revive Our Hearts wall calendar, we decided to focus on this theme—the names of Christ. We wanted this calendar to be extra special, because there is just "something special about that name." So we commissioned artist Timothy Botts to create twelve new works, each based on a name of Jesus and each taking a quote from the upcoming radio series.

I’m so pleased with the result, and hope you’ll get a copy of “The Wonder of His Name” wall calendar. We’d like to send you a copy of the calendar this month when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any size. Your gift will be used to point more women to the wonder of who Jesus is and what He has done for us.

This beautiful calendar will provide a great opportunity for you to focus on Jesus, on the wonder of His name, the whole year ahead.  

Leslie: Thanks Nancy. To get a copy of “The Wonder of His Name” wall calendar, call us at 1–800–569–5959, make a donation of any amount and ask for the calendar, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

In recent memory, our world has been shaken by floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, and tsunamis. Nancy will continue to show you what to do when you are being shaken in the storms of life. That is tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.


Nancy: Just one closing reminder here.  

Leslie: Again, here is Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy: For those of us who are in trouble and are trying to keep our eyes on Christ our refuge, a word of encouragement. You know it, but sometimes we need to be reminded that the day is coming when we will be in the presence of the Lord. Fully, finally, forever delivered from all trouble. But until then, we have a God who is our refuge, our strength, and a very present help in trouble, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

1 Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Cheque Book of the Bank of Faith, December 22.

2 Matthew Henry. Matthew Henry's commentary on the whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Ps. 46:1–5). Peabody: Hendrickson, 1996.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.