It’s a great joy for Christians to know that God never loses sight of them. He never misplaces their file or allows them to slide off his radar for a single moment. Psalm 46:1 says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” I’m very thankful that when I am in difficulty, God doesn’t just send help; He is my help! And that, of course, is true for all believers. As the Bible says, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).
One who rejoiced in the truth of Psalm 46 was Martin Luther, the leader of the Protestant Reformation (October 31 of this year is the 500th anniversary of that movement). Luther loved Psalm 46, for it brought him immeasurable comfort during his intense and frequent trials. In fact, the year 1527 was the most difficult of his life. After 10 demanding years of leading the Reformation (all the while being hunted and persecuted), he experienced frightening health issues and debilitating discouragement. He wrote, “I spent more than a week in death and hell. My entire body was in pain, and I still tremble.”
Furthermore, the dreaded Black Plague had entered Germany and spread to Wittenberg. Many people fled the area, but because Luther and his wife Katy believed it their duty to remain and care for the sick and dying, they turned their home into a hospital. With death surrounding him on every side, Luther was driven to seek refuge in God as never before, especially when his one-year-old son became desperately ill (thankfully, the child eventually recovered). Thus, Psalm 46 became the very strength of Martin Luther’s soul, and it also became the inspiration for the great hymn he wrote, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” – a hymn declaring that God is our all-sufficient refuge in our weakest moments. In fact, when difficulty and danger arose, Luther would often say to his associate, “Come, Philipp, let us sing the 46th Psalm.” Little wonder that in the last stanza of Luther’s hymn, he wrote, “The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still, His kingdom is forever.”
Well, whether in Luther’s 16th century or in our 21st century, all people face trials and crises in life. For believers, however, God is their comfort and strength in the midst of their troubles, even when disasters shake their world. May we today – 500 years later – confidently declare with Martin Luther: A mighty fortress is our God!