Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Are you in trouble? That was the title of a Revive Our Hearts program we aired in 2013, part of a series called “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” And today we are going to return to that program, because the cry of the world around us is, “Yes! We’re in trouble!”

I’m Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth and this is Revive Our Hearts for Wednesday, March 18.

I don’t think anyone would argue that these are troubled times. We are living through the coronavirus pandemic. We're facing world-wide economic uncertainty. We're trying to figure out how to manage our homes and our lives with dwindling supplies. People are dealing with fear of the future. You may be struggling with other needs that aren't even directly related to the crisis.

Earlier this week I shared briefly about how Robert has received a diagnosis of melanoma. In just a couple of days, we'll be visiting a surgical oncologist to find out the extent of his disease and what treatment will be needed. I never thought, two weeks ago, that I would be using that word, "surgical oncologist." But the Lord knew all along, and He knows what we are walking through in these times of trouble.

And in the midst of all of these uncertainties and unknowns, I’m reminded of something I say to women all the time, “Anything that makes me need God is a blessing.” I think that resonates in a special way in this season. We have been reminded how much we need God for everything all the time—for food,  freedom, basic supplies, the ability to gather at church. And as those gifts are being removed or changed, we have an opportunity to show the world what it means to live with true hope.

We have scrambled to change the programming we had scheduled this week, so that we could return to a series from our archives called “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” Today the program we’re hearing from this series is that episode called “Are You in Trouble?” Let’s listen to that study of Psalm 46.

Nancy: 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 verse 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. 

Nancy: We have been studying Psalm 46 together. It’s a passage that tells us what to do in times of trouble. I hope you'll go back to this passage again and again in the days ahead. So here on Revive Our Hearts we changed our scheduled programming this week, so that we could re-visit this program from the archives during this time when we are being brought face-to-face with so much trouble.

As we shared earlier this week, we hosted a True Woman conference in Mexico just this past weekend. That conference was attended by more than 6,000 women from twenty-some countries. Had it been scheduled even a day or two later, it would not have been possible. The convention center would have been shut down, flights would not have been possible. But in God's providence, that conference was able to go on. The women there were so hungry, so responsive, and so eager for this truth about how to stay rooted in the Lord in times of trouble. As the Lord would have it, the message I had planned to bring to this conference was called "Rooted and Steadfast in Trials."

I reminded the women there that if you are not rooted in Christ and His Word, you won't be able to withstand trials. I also reminded them that if you don't have trials, you won't develop strong, deep roots. You won't be able to endure great trials and hardship.

You may find that the message I gave there on "Rooted and Steadfast in Trials" is an encouragement to you during this season. It's available on our website, along with several other resources that our team has put together, to encourage you during this season.

If you go to, you can find that message, as well as a whole list of downloadable resources that will help you become more deeply rooted in truth in these unstable times.

Let me say, this is not a time to just hunker down and be concerned about ourselves. We need to take good care of ourselves. But God is also going to provide opportunities for us to reach out to others to share the truth and the peace that we have in Christ.

If you're a mom of a tween daughter—that's girls roughly ages eight–twelve—we have a unique opportunity for you to share the truth of God’s Word thanks to our partner ministry, True Girl, which is headed up by Dannah Gresh, who normally is my co-host here on Revive Our Hearts. Due to the last-minute changes that we've made in the programming today, Dannah's not able to be with us.

But she wanted to be sure to invite you to a livestream study called “Overcoming Lies About Beauty and Worth.” It’s a live online study hosted by Dannah and Chizzy Anderson. You know them from the True Woman conferences.

I know many of us are spending more time at home, and your kids are out of school, and your kids are going a little stir-crazy, getting some cabin fever. And you are wondering what you can do with them during this time. Well, this is a great opportunity for moms and daughters to connect. The first session in that six-week live online study is this coming Monday at 6:30 p.m. ET. To get more details and to signup for that study for you and your daughter, visit

I hope there will be thousands of moms and tween daughters who will come together for this important study on "Overcoming Lies About Beauty and Worth." Help us get the word out about that.

Tomorrow, once again we’ll open Psalm 46 together. Be reading it for yourself between now and then. Maybe even memorize it over these next days. And we’ll be reminded that "God is our refuge and strength. A very present help in times of need." I'm Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts  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.