A Very Present Help
When I was in elementary school and the teacher took attendance at the beginning of the day, students would respond to hearing their name by saying “here” or “present.” Those who were absent, of course, would say nothing at all. There were only two options. You were either in school or you weren’t. Present or absent. There was no in-between, no degrees of attendance. No one was ever “somewhat absent” or “a little bit here.” You were in class, or you were not.
But, oddly, in Psalm 46:1, God is described as “very present.” The verse says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (ESV). Isn’t that strange? The word “present” is qualified. In times of trouble, God is not just here. He is very here!
What does it mean to say that God is “a very present help”? The Hebrew word translated “present” is a participle that means “one being found.” The word translated “very” is an adverb that means “exceedingly” or “in abundance.” Put together, the words seem to communicate that, when times are tough, God’s help is very easy to find. There is no need to search high and low to find God. There is no lengthy application process to qualify for his aid. When God’s people are in trouble, God is instantly and constantly there.
Isn’t that a comforting thought? Commenting on this verse, Charles Spurgeon, a British pastor in the 1800’s, wrote: “[God] never withdraws himself from his afflicted [people]. He is their help, truly, effectually, constantly; he is present or near them, close at their side and ready for their [relief], and this is emphasized by the word very.… [God] is more present than friend or relative can be, yea, more nearly present than even the trouble itself.”
One implication of this truth is spelled out by the song-writer later in the psalm. Since God is “a very present help in times of trouble,” there is no need for us to worry or fear when our situation seems dim. Our helper says to us, “Be still and know that I am God” (v. 10a). He invites us to rest in the knowledge that he is with us and will not let us down.
Are you resting in the “very present help” of God? This is not always easy to do. Often our worries make it hard to be still. The fear in our hearts and the noise in our minds make it difficult to quiet our souls in the presence of God. But the good news is that the same God who is available to help with our troubles is also available to help calm our hearts when we are overcome with fear. If you are struggling to rest in the presence of God and to trust him with your problems, ask him to help you learn to trust more fully in him.
Do you think God will help you to be still and trust him? Of course, he will. He is our “very present help.”