I am a big advocate of writing in your Bible. Perhaps that's the English teacher coming out in me. I like to write the date on a passage when I've read something that really struck me. I'll also make notes about things I think, question, or realize. I take notes from the sermons I hear. I date them, write the preacher's name, and then scribble the main points. I like to do this because it makes my Bible like a journal. I can see a scripture with a date and some notes, and I'm able to remember what I was thinking about or going through at the time.
On September 11, 2001, after a long day at school watching an unprecedented tragedy unfold on TV and trying to help my sixth graders make some sense of the whole thing, I came home and pulled out my Bible. It literally fell open to Psalm 46. Today, I found where I had marked that passage with a big star. I studied that for a while. Here is the Contemporary English Version of that passage.
God Is Our Mighty Fortress
1God is our mighty fortress, always ready to help in times of trouble. 2And so, we won't be afraid! Let the earth tremble and the mountains tumble into the deepest sea. 3Let the ocean roar and foam, and its raging waves shake the mountains. 4A river and its streams bring joy to the city, which is the sacred home of God Most High. 5God is in that city, and it won't be shaken. He will help it at dawn. 6Nations rage! Kingdoms fall! But at the voice of God the earth itself melts. 7The LORD All-Powerful is with us. The God of Jacob is our fortress. 8Come! See the fearsome things the LORD has done on earth. 9God brings wars to an end all over the world. He breaks the arrows, shatters the spears, and burns the shields. [a] 10Our God says, "Calm down, and learn that I am God! All nations on earth will honor me." 11The LORD All-Powerful is with us. The God of Jacob is our fortress.
I remember reading it over and over. In the midst of fear and uncertainty, it provided me a much needed reminder of God's power. Verse 10 is one of my all time favorites. In the NIV, it says "Be still and know that I am God." The New King James Version italicizes "am" which makes it seem like God is reminding you who is in control, just in case you were wondering. The Message says, "Step out of the traffic!"
At the time, that really helped me calm my questioning heart. I didn't know why any of this was happening, and I sure didn't know what would happen next. I wanted answers I could give my students and myself; I wanted desperately to help heal the hurt. But I couldn't. All I could do was be still and know that God is God. He is All Powerful! He was in the midst of the devestation and heartbreak in New York City. He was present in Washington and Pennsylvania. And though these events were certainly not of God, He could still be our fortress. We would find comfort in Him if we sought it.
Nine years later, our nation is still healing from the events of that day. Families were destroyed, and many innocent lives were lost. We questioned, "Why?" How could God allow this to happen? I could never construct a coherent answer to why, but I could find peace in the midst of it all. It still helps me to think about the words of the psalmist. "God is our refuge and our strength, an ever present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1,NIV)." . He wants us to turn our hearts to Him. He yearns for relationship with us. He offers us peace and freedom. The Lord Almighty is with us!