‘The nations are in uproar and the kingdoms are shaken’.

This verse comes from one of the psalms set for this week in the Church of England. If you follow international news, you may feel it’s a good description of the world as we start this new year. The conflicts in Ukraine, Gaza and elsewhere roll on, our ecosystem faces catastrophe and democracies across the world are being undermined or dismantled in various ways.

How should we, how can we respond? I can think of three ways: put on our superhero outfits and fly out to fix it all; sit paralysed with anxiety and guilt because we can’t; or convince ourselves that none of it is happening.

Alternatively, Psalm 46, as many of the Hebrew psalms do, paints a terrifying picture of chaos – trembling mountains and towering seas - and then switches tone completely to reassure us that we do not need to fear.

Jews and Christians believe in an all-powerful, loving and faithful God, who promises that, one day, the ecosystem will be renewed and peace will reign over the whole earth. We also know that it is not in our power – without God – to make it happen.

The psalm calls us to ‘Be still and know that I am God’ – to let go of anxiety and guilt, know our limits and leave the rest to God. If we do, we will keep our heads (‘when all around are losing theirs’, in Kipling’s famous words) and we will be much better able to love God and those around us as we are called to do.

Written by Lois Sparling of St George’s Church in Kendal.

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