June 23, 2017 • Life for Leaders
When the earth and all its people quake, it is I who hold its pillars firm.
Have you ever experienced an earthquake, a literal earthquake? If not, it’s no picnic, let me tell you. Early one February morning when I was in eighth grade, I was jolted out of bed by a terrifying shaking. My house seemed to be roaring. Pictures hung on the walls were swinging. I didn’t know whether to get up and run outside or to hide under my desk or to scream with fear. The quaking seemed to go on for minutes, though in fact it continued for only twelve seconds, followed by an eerie silence.
My family’s house survived with minimal damage. Nobody among my family or friends was injured. My school was closed for a few days, which wasn’t exactly bad news to an eighth grader. I learned later that all of the books in the school library fell off the shelves onto the floor. Only twenty miles away from where I lived, however, the damage was massive—hundreds of millions of dollars in damage, several hospital buildings destroyed, over 60 deaths. I learned from experience just how powerful and terrifying it can be when the earth quakes.
Thus, as I read Psalm 75:3, I can’t help but remember how it felt when the earth was literally quaking beneath me. I also recall similar feelings at other times in life, times when the quaking wasn’t literal, but metaphorical. I think of when I learned that my father had terminal cancer, or when my infant son ran a fever of 106 degrees. Most people have experienced this kind of quaking. Some have known turmoil far beyond anything I have experienced, as victims of violent crime or war, as people who have lost loved ones tragically, or similar “earthquakes.”
Psalm 75:3 acknowledges the reality of such convulsions in life. There will be times when our “earth” quakes. In these times, we find ourselves looking for shelter or grasping for something we can hang onto. And, in these times, God speaks to us through the pen of the psalmist: “When the earth and all its people quake, it is I who hold its pillars firm” (75:3). The pillars, in this image, serve as the foundation of the earth.
Times of shaking will come. Our lives will be tossed around. Everything we count on might seem uncertain. Notice that God does not prevent such turmoil. God does not keep earthquakes, both literal and metaphorical, from happening. Yet the seismic activity is not the deepest reality. Behind and beneath the shaking of our lives is a greater truth, the truth of God’s presence, the truth of God’s strength, the truth of God’s stability, the truth of God’s trustworthiness. When our lives seem to be coming apart at the seams, we will find reassurance in God. The more we draw near to him, the more we will not fall apart. Rather, we will find strength and safety in the one who is with us always, and who will never leave us or forsake us, the God whose love will never let us go.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Have you ever experienced an earthquake or some other natural disaster? What was it like? How did you feel?
What have been the most upsetting and tumultuous experiences of your life?
In the midst of your “quaking,” did you turn to God? What happened?
Do you find yourself in an “earthquake” right now? Can you sense God’s presence in the midst of the quaking?
What helps you to have confidence and peace in God, even when your life is being shaken?
Gracious God, how I praise you for your power and might. I praise you for your faithfulness and steadiness. I praise you for being trustworthy and compassionate. I praise you for being present in my life.
When my life is quaking, may I open my heart to you and know that you are there. When I feel afraid, may I find peace in you. When I don’t know where to turn next, may I turn always to you.
I pray today for those who are in the middle of an earthquake. I think of friends who are struggling with great problems. I think of those who live in the midst of violence each day. I think of people throughout our world who have recently lost loved ones because of terrorism. I think of victims of injustice and racism. For these and so many others, I pray for your grace to be poured out. May they know you, O God, as the one who keeps the foundations firm. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary: God’s presence in the midst of disaster (Psalm 46)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.