Reflecting on Mt. Vesuvius

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. (Psalm 46:1-3)

In a moment, everything changes. The happy family sitting around the table, the boy on his way home from playing with his friends, the little baby girl who just settled down for her peaceful evening rest. They didn’t know it was coming. They didn’t know the world as they knew it would cease to exist. They didn’t have time to make things right. They didn’t have time to say goodbye.

In a moment, everything changes. Familiar homes and childhood memories drowning in magma. Daughters screaming just an arms-length away from the protection of their father. Sons running towards futility as the waves of lava swallow them whole. Structure, power, and order disintegrated. Stable monstrous mountains moved into the heart of the sea.

In a moment everything changes, except God. From the beginning of creation, in the Garden of Eden God helps his people when they hide in shame. From Exile in the desert to the bonds of Egyptian slavery, God hears the cries of his people. From the laments of King David to the screams beneath a volcanic eruption, God is our refuge and strength.

But the comfort from an unchanging God doesn’t necessarily mean that our troubles will disappear. In fact, most of the time it means the exact opposite. Even Jesus himself told the disciples “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Luke 9:23-24) More trouble and hardship seems to pile upon the people of God, so much that we may wonder where our refuge and strength is hiding.

So where is He hiding? In the midst of all the pain and suffering where is God? Psalm 46:1 tells us more than meets the eye. Literally in the Hebrew language verse 1 is translated, He is “very found”. God is present. God is near. According to David, God is found in the middle of trouble.

In a moment everything changes, except God. Our worries crash down upon us. That’s where God is near in the forgiveness of Christ. Life swells over our head, drowning us. That’s where God is present, in a taste of our victory feast to come. Even when the mountains come crashing into the sea, I will not fear. Because these are the moments that I remember that God has always been there for me.

In a moment, God’s promise of life eternal is more real than any mountain or sun on this creation. In a moment, I forget the legacy of my hands on this earth to cling only to the salvation won by Christ for me. In a moment, there is nothing more on this earth to fear. God, in Christ, is a very present help through every trouble.