1 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, 3 though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. Selah 4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. 5 God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. 6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. 7 The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah 8 Come and see the works of the LORD, the desolations he has brought on the earth. 9 He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear, he burns the shields [b] with fire. 10 "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." (NIV)
Life is a journey full of beauty, joy, anticipation, surprise, paradox, and pain. During the course of our lives, many of us have witnessed joy as well as a those things that have caused us to experience profound lamentation and heaviness. Over the past 50 years, many of our lives have been radically transformed by such events as the assassination of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and President John F. Kennedy; the Vietnam War; starvation in Somalia; the HIV epidemic; the explosion of the space shuttle; 911; the War in Iraq; the derailment of trains; numerous terrorist attacks; Tsunami; Hurricane Katrina and the lists continues. Such suffering causes even the most faith-anchored and spiritually connected person to become restless and ponder alternatives that might facilitate healing in the world.
Consequently, we have become the beneficiaries of some very difficult to fathom and challenging circumstances. Significantly, many of the values and which we have held sacred and have utilized to define democracy, justice, hope, and our nation have eroded or have been eradicated and/or washed away literally/figuratively in seconds!
Far too often, we are inundated on a daily bases, almost to the degree of becoming numb, with profound and senseless suffering in our world. Such pervasive suffering moves some of us to anesthetize our feelings by engaging in activities that provides us with a transient escape from reality, while others are immobilized by the profundity of helplessness. Such a barrage of suffering causes even the strongest person to become anxious and eager to incite some movement on the behalf of GOD, who we believe on some level is not moving fast enough, or much less in a manner that we can detect!
In instances like those aforementioned, we are provoked to become more intimately immersed within the depths of GOD as we seek understanding, purpose, and meaning for suffering! Oftentimes, we have already done the very best that we are able and even then, our most regal efforts appear unappreciated; ineffective; insufficient; or defunct as the onslaught of a catastrophe makes the one which transpired before it look minuscule. Do we really want to go to the next level? I am not so certain sometimes.
In the book by Joseph Bruchac entitled Gluskabe And The Four Wishes, this narrative, couched in the narrative tradition of the Native American, depicted the lives of four Abenaki men who sought the fulfillment of their wishes from Gluskabe, the Great Spirit.
As these four men happen upon their dangerous journey, one wished for great possessions, another for great height, another for long life, and still another for the ability to hunt well to feed his people.
After incurring the perils of the fierce winds and being encircled by a mass of mammoth size whales, the four seekers reached the island of Gluskabe. Gluskabe acknowledged the fact that these men had worked very hard to reach him despite the perils that they encountered.
Consequently, Gluskabe informed each man that he had earned the right for one wish. Each man wished as follows: 1) One wished for great possessions, 2) Another for great height, 3) Another for long life, and 4) Still another for the ability to hunt well to feed his people. Gluskabe looked at the fourth man and smiled. He took out four pouches and gave one to each of the men. He stated, "In each of these you will find what you want. But do not open them before you get home and in your own lodges."
Ironically, we might possibly think, in instances like these, that our struggles do not appear to measure up too much if we were to be sent home with a pouch?
Nevertheless, all of the men agreed, crossed the river, and pursued their individual destinations. However, curiosity, anxiety, questions, uncertainty, and the inability to be still got the better of the three and resulted in the each of these men peeking inside of the bag. The man who wanted great possessions upon opening the bag immediately acquired so many possessions that it caused the new boat that he acquired to sink entangling him in the possessions; the man who wanted great height upon opening the bag and was immediately transformed into the tallest pine tree; the man who wanted long life upon opening the bag and was immediately turned into a large boulder which would remain unchanged for thousands of seasons...all three whose curiosity and anxiety had prevented them from being still.
The fourth man did not think of himself and traveled home. He had farther to go then the others, but did not stop nor did he look into the bag. Upon reaching his abode, he opened the pouch, but there was nothing inside. He felt disappointed, confused, betrayed, and dumbfounded. While holding the pouch, insights and revelations were beginning to come to him as never before as he gained understanding about the nature and the habits of animals. Afterwards, he became a great hunter for his people only hunting that which was needed. The lesson that both Gluskabe, the Great Spirit, and the four Abenaki men offers us is compelling, profound, and simple.
In times of uncertainty, distress, and suffering, David, the Psalmist, reminds us that GOD requires us to
"be still and know that I AM GOD!"
"Be Still and know that I am God!"
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