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Saturday I took advantage of a solitary drive to Jacksonville to surround myself with the music of the Morman Tabernacle Choir. On the cassette was a rendition of “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah,” with a verse that I had never heard before (and which according to my internet search seems to be found only in the Latter Day Saints hymnal). It begins:

When the earth begins to tremble,
Bid our fearful thoughts be still.

I have never been in an earthquake and can’t even imagine the sense of helplessness there must be when not even the formerly solid earth can be relied upon. What I have experienced, though, is what I believe most of us go through at one time or another in our lives: moments when the very underpinnings of our way of being in the world are shaken.

For me the earth has seemed to tremble:

  • during times of deep grief — of loss so profound that afterwards life will never ever be quite the same (the death of a loved one is an obvious example of this kind of earth-shaking grief, but there are others);
  • during times when I have become acutely aware of my own sin in a particular situation — times when the foundations of my self-image, my complacency and self-sufficiency, are shaken — and after which I can no longer apprehend myself or the world in the same way.
  • My desire in situations like these is usually for everything to return to the way it used to be. But that can never happen. Nor should it happen. That would be to unlearn what we have learned about ourselves and about life.

    Always and without fail, the unshakable rock in our fear and grief is God. God’s mercy is our unwavering comfort. And the source of our security, when all around us and inside us trembles, is God’s grace present and working to bring us through to a new and more enduring peace.

    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.

    (Psalm 46:1-3)

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