March 25, 2019
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble.
Some utter the words, “God helps those who help themselves,” with a kind of certainty, as if they can be found in the holy writings of scripture. These words, attributed in 1698 to Algernon Sydney and in 1757 to Benjamin Franklin, have been repeated through the years by well-meaning people who may be frustrated or impatient by those they viewed as helpless or lacking motivation, or wanting to justify goods, favors, or positions they themselves have acquired.
The words of the 46th Psalm depict God not just being present in the normal challenges of day-to-day life, but very present in times of real trouble, or in truly troubling times. What a comfort it is to realize that in times of trouble, when we can’t help or save ourselves, God has and will!
In continuation of this Women’s History Month and Lenten series around women in the bible, I am drawn to one of my “go-to” sisters who is depicted in three of the Gospel accounts, as a woman with issues.[i] She had been suffering for a great many years with a devastating illness that was draining her of life. She tried many times, “to get herself some help.” So she went to bona fide physicians, herbalists, root doctors, and other “healers”; none were able to help her, nor was she able to help herself by the counsel mothers, grandmothers, and aunties. Her last hope presented itself when she encountered Jesus on the street. Although he was surrounded by the swarming crowd, and safeguarded by his posse of disciples, she reached out and touched the hem of his garment as he passed by, and in so-doing, received the healing she could not muster for herself.
Her specific touch did not go unnoticed by Jesus despite the throng. He acknowledged her touch and her need, and gave her what she sought. Relief. Respect. Healing. A Recovered Life. Through Jesus, God helped this woman who could not help herself.
Despite all she went through in her 12-year illness, she had not relinquished her hope. She could not stop herself from boldly reaching out to the One who could and would be a very present help in her time of trouble.
We encounter many times where and when we know that we cannot help ourselves. I know I have. But the good news is this, in our recognition of the limitations of our own power, if we are wise, we reach out to the One who can, does, and will help us. This is most evident in troubling times of times of trouble.
Seeking Imprints of Peace through Troubling Times,
The Rev. Dr. Cheryl F. Dudley
Regional Executive Minister
American Baptist Churches of Metropolitan New York
[i] Matthew 9:20-22; Mark 5:25-34; Luke 8:43-48