Have you looked around lately at peoples’ faces? I was in a Zoom meeting recently with about 15 other people, and the vast majority of us looked wiped out and exhausted. Where there used to be joy and laughter, instead there was a far-away look and sighing. A year of living day after day with the perceived threat of COVID-19 has taken its toll on all of us. Lives that used to be filled with optimism and joy are now drained and stressed.

Today I read this in Psalm 46:1-5 (CBS): “God is our refuge and strength, a helper who is always found in times of trouble. Therefore we will not be afraid, though the Earth trembles and the mountains topple into the depths of the seas, though its water roars and foams and the mountains quake with its turmoil. There is a river — its streams delight the city of God, the holy dwelling place of the Most High. God is within her; she will not be toppled. God will help her when the morning dawns.”

Psalms in the Bible are expressions of faith through metaphorical poetry. The background circumstances of Psalm 46 is portrayed as a very chaotic picture, as a world in upheaval and uncertainty. The people felt helpless when confronted with so many life-threatening forces. It was like living in a world gone crazy and out of control.

Yet in the midst of trouble our attention is drawn to God, beginning in verse 1. God is our fortress, God is our strength. God is our helper in troubling times. We tend to focus on the things that are frightening and threatening us, rather than upon the God who protects us.

Our default way of thinking and behaving centers on ourselves. We want to be in control. We want to be secure, safe, healthy and well off, and do it all by ourselves, without depending upon God. Yet when an earthquake strikes and the shock waves knock us off our feet, our confidence is shaken. When the stormy sea overflows the banks and destroys our homes, we are devastated. When a virus threatens our freedom and well-being we are called to re-evaluate our life and self-supremacy. After a year of constant pressure, we have lost our luster and zeal. Joy seems absent from our daily lives, and therefore from our faces and energy.

This Psalm is meant to bring help and hope to whoever will listen and seek God when we are in over our heads. The first thing we need to do is look for God, instead of looking at threatening circumstances. In the midst of a crazy world, invite God into your life, focus on Him and the resources He provides for you. If you are a believer in the Lord Jesus, God is your friend, your protector, your strength and your hope of help in the midst of trouble.

If God is your protection, you are safe. No created thing can defeat the Creator of all things. When we are weak, God’s atomic power plant is fired up and ready to deliver all the strength and power we need. Though the physical world seems to be turned over on its head, we need not fear for God is with us and is our strength to come through the chaos.

When everything we relied on in this physical world is shaking and rattling and rolling, we need to focus on our unchanging God, who is not disabled by the chaos. Though our life has become chaotic, God is in our midst, a cool, calm stream of life-giving resources (vs. 4). The God of all peace, power and wisdom resides in our heart. God is streaming joy into our life and becomes a protective wall around us. He anchors our lives to reality; therefore, we will not be moved. God brings a new day with the rising of the sun and fills our lives with hope and joy.

If you haven’t been glad or cheerful for a long time, change your focus. Look at God and his overcoming power instead of chaos and destruction. Look at God’s renewing and refreshing presence, instead of man’s declining vitality and abilities. Open your life up to the joy and peace of God, instead of the daily input of confusion and depression from the world around us. Delight in God instead of in yourself, breathe in God’s hopeful reality instead of a fallen world’s hopelessness.

There is a river streaming the life of God into us each day. Is he flowing in and through you?

Award-winning columnist Dr. Ed Jordan is pastor of Gwynn’s Island Baptist Church in Gwynn, Virginia. He can be reached at szent.edward@gmail.com.