My heart hurts today.
It aches for the people of Ukraine. It especially hurts for a group of pastors and Christians in Ukraine who are closely tied to my church body. I know their names. I’ve followed their stories.
Now many of them find themselves barricaded in their homes or hiding in subway tunnels. Some are desperately trying to make their way west toward Poland.
Bombs are exploding around them. People are dying. Their nation is desperately trying to fend off a foreign invader. Few of us can imagine what it must be like for them. The world is literally crashing around them.
If I had the opportunity, I would read to each of them the words of Psalm 46. If you have a chance this week, I encourage you to turn off the news for a few minutes, put down your phone, and read for yourself the comforting words of this psalm.
In it, the psalmist describes the world falling apart around us – the mountains crumbling, the seas surging, the earth giving way. But he says again and again that we do not need to be afraid. God is our refuge and strength. He is with us. He will help us.
A Mighty Fortress is our God.
In verse ten, God calmly and firmly speaks. “Be still, and know that I am God,” he says. “I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
Many Christians take those words as God speaking to us – as God speaking to our brothers and sisters in Ukraine. “Be still. Take a deep breath. Remember that I am God. I will take care of you. I will protect you. I am the King and Creator of the universe. I am your Savior and Father and Friend. Do not be afraid.”
Those words echo promises and encouragements God gives us throughout the Bible. But, as a fellow pastor pointed out to me years ago, the words of verse ten most likely aren’t directed toward us.
In the verses right before God speaks, the psalmist says, “Come and see the works of the Lord … He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear.” In other words, when conniving kings and evil empires wage war against us, we can know that, in the end, God will bring those conflicts to an end.
He will protect his people. All wars will eventually end. Evil cannot win.
In that context, when God says, “Be still, and know that I am God,” it seems he is speaking to those who wage war against the innocent. He is saying, “Stop. Remember who is really in charge. I am in control.”
One way or another, this conflict in Ukraine will end. God will be with his people, providing and protecting them. No matter what happens to them here, they will dwell in the safety of heaven forever. One day, those who maliciously attack them will have to stand before the God of the universe and give an account.
I don’t know how long this conflict in Ukraine will last.
Many of us are openly wondering whether the world will once again delve into a multination war. Only God knows.
My prayer today is that everyone in our world – both God’s people who are suffering and those who wage war against them – take to heart God’s powerful encouragement and warning.
“Be still, and know that I am God.”