The opening words of Psalm 121 are some of the most powerful known in the English language – especially in their earlier form (I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help? My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth). There’s a resonance of hope in despair, of looking for help in desperate times, and the realisation that our help is only, ultimately, in the Lord’s hands.
For most of my life I lived in cities, rejoicing in the chance to get away to the wide open spaces of North Wales or Scotland’s Highlands and Islands. Majestic mountains always make me recall these words and, in the busyness of life, I found help in the mountains – to relax, slow my pace, and think. It’s not that the mountains were the help but that in the mountains, away from the press and stress of life, I found time for re-creation.
Where, I wonder, does our society look for help? Foreign alliances can prove tricky (and as Brexit shows rather transitory), financial markets prove unstable, captains of industry prove unreliable, and political leaders have feet of clay. Institutions which appear stable can be easily rocked as Mr Trump proved on 6th January 2021. We, of course, can find help in therapy and pharmacology, in spirituality (not always associated with the Church), in music, or in escape through fiction or film. All these things can be good.
Just as I needed my escape to desolate places, we all need various things to help but, in all those things our help is found in the Lord. God works through mountain and music, therapist, landscape, and carefully made medicine; through the wild waves and chanting, wind, media and heartfelt prayer.
Where do you find the Lord helping you?
We find our strength in you, O Lord, from whence will you help? Will we find you in music and song, in mountain and sea, in therapy and crowd, in stillness and silence? You are our strength, help us to find You. Amen.
The Rev’d Andy Braunston is the URC’s Minister of Digital Worship and a member of the Peedie Kirk, Orkney