When the Earth Shakes Beneath You

By Michaela O’Donnell

October 3, 2020

Scripture – Psalm 46:1-3 (NRSV)

God is our refuge and strength,
+++a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
+++though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
though its waters roar and foam,
+++though the mountains tremble with its tumult. Selah


Sometimes change feels like the ground is shifting beneath us. Right in the middle of those moments of chaos, God promises to be near—a very present help in trouble.


A couple of weeks ago I was startled awake in the middle of the night. When I woke, I was literally standing next to the bed trying to figure out where I was and what had happened. My heart was racing. I looked over at my husband who was also standing.  There had been an earthquake.

I’ve lived in California for over a decade and therefore have experienced my fair share of earthquakes. But, no matter how many times I’ve felt the ground move, nothing can quite prepare you for it. I grew up with tornadoes. Those were bad, but at least we had warnings. At least we had sirens that told us to race to our basements and grab our battery-powered radios.

Sometimes the changes in our worlds feel like a tornado—big or scary, but not without warning.  Other times, the changes in our worlds are more like an earthquake. They just happen. The ground just shifts beneath us and there we are, heart pounding, wondering what in the world just happened.

If it feels to you like this year has been a year of earthquakes, you are not alone. Set to the backdrop of Covid-19, racial uprisings, and an election year here in America, tens of millions of people have lost their jobs. Businesses have had to shutter and close. Parents have had to simultaneously work from home while facilitating online learning for their kids. So many of us have had to change the very basic parts of how we work—not to mention how we gather with friends, shop for groceries, or what we do with our free time.

Psalm 46 is a Psalm for 2020. It helps us know deep down that while we can never quite prepare for an earthquake, we should expect that earthquakes are indeed coming. The ground will shift beneath us. We will have days where everything feels like it changed.

But it also helps us know that God is a very present help in trouble. A very present help. God is helpful in that in the Lord we find both refuge from the quaking earth and strength to face whatever changes are taking place. And in this, we have the invitation not to fear.

In the same way, my husband and I rushed to our kids that night of the earthquake, God rushes to us when the earth moves in our world. So, remember this today: just when you feel your heart racing, just when you feel disoriented by all the change in our world and in your life and work, God is near. God is with you.


Where have you felt the ground shift beneath you lately?

Were you able to feel God’s presence?

Or did it feel far off?


Take a walk or spend some time journaling on how you’ve noticed God’s strength in the midst of change this year.


God, thank you that you are an ever-present help in times of trouble. We pray that we can trust you even when change feels so intense that it feels like the ground is shaking beneath our feet. Amen.

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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Best of Daily Reflections: How Does God Bring Destruction?

Michaela O’Donnell

Mary and Dale Andringa Executive Director

Michaela is the Mary and Dale Andringa Executive Director Chair at the Max De Pree Center for Leadership. She is also an assistant professor of marketplace leadership and the lead professor for Fuller Seminary’s Doctor of Global Leadership, Redemptive Imagination in the Marketplace progr...

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