A number of psalms emphasize the safety and protection we receive from God. Using terms like “rock,” “fortress,” “defense,” and “refuge,” these hymns remind us that we can have confidence when we are built on a firm foundation. Nephi’s affirmation, “My soul will rejoice in thee, my God, and the rock of my salvation” (2 Nephi 4:30), is possibly a quote from Psalm 89:26, and Helaman’s admonition to build our foundation “upon the rock of our Redeemer” (Helaman 5:12) parallels the statement in Psalm 78:35: “They remembered that God was their rock, and the high God their redeemer.”
Psalm 46 is entirely dedicated to this topic. It opens with the declaration: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble,” and then provides examples of the protection God provides, including from natural disasters and wars. It ends with the following reaffirmation: “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge” (Psalm 46:1, 7, 11).
I love the unusual phrase, “a very present help.” God is not distant and detached. He is aware of us, engaged in our lives, and willing to provide comfort and support immediately as needed.
Most English translations of the Bible use the phrase “refuge and strength” in the first sentence, but the Contemporary English Version opens differently: “God is our mighty fortress.” This mirrors the opening of Martin Luther’s hymn which was inspired by this psalm:
A mighty fortress is our God,
A tower of strength ne’er failing.
A helper mighty is our God,
O’er ills of life prevailing.Hymns, 68
Elder Ronald A. Rasband quoted those words as he encouraged us to “build a fortress of spiritual strength.” He said:
Your testimony of Jesus Christ is your personal fortress, the security for your soul…. When we live the gospel of Jesus Christ, when we draw upon the Savior’s Atonement and press forward with faith, not fear, we are fortified against the wiles of the adversary.“Build a Fortress of Spirituality and Protection,” General Conference, April 2019
I love this dramatic version Martin Luther’s hymn, arranged by Dan Forrest and performed by students at Baylor University:
Today, I will remember and be grateful that God is my rock, my refuge, and my fortress. I will move forward regardless of the challenges I face with the assurance that He is my “very present help” and that He will provide assistance in times of need.