A Hymn for Earthquakes

Sep 12, 2023

This past Friday, an earthquake hit Morocco so hard that the death toll is over 2,800 and is still rising. This is tragic, heartbreaking and sobering for believers and non-believers alike.

What biblical truth can we hold onto when devastating natural disasters like this take place? And is there a hymn that can help us remember that truth?

I'm not the first to wonder this. 

In February, 1750, an earthquake struck London and a month later, another earthquake struck London —possibly an aftershock.

Although these events were not catastrophic in effect, they struck the heart of prolific hymn writer Charles Wesley so deeply, he wrote several hymns on the subject and published them within a month. This collection of hymns is titled Hymns Occasioned by the Earthquake.

One hymn, in particular, stands out. Drawing from the imagery of Psalm 46 and its specific reference to earthquakes, this hymn highlights one eternal truth:

God is our refuge no matter what.

According to Scripture, earthquakes can happen for a variety of reasons — as natural consequences of the Fall, as judgements from God, or as signs of the end times drawing near. Perhaps they even happen as a combination of all three.

Yet no matter the reason why an earthquake happens, we can always be sure of one thing: God is our refuge no matter what. 

Let Psalm 46 and Charles Wesley's hymn encourage you today.

God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
    though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
    though the mountains tremble at its swelling. 

— Psalm 46:1-3


God, the Omnipresent God

by Charles Wesley

God, the omnipresent God,
Our strength and refuge stands
Ready to support our load,
And bear us in His hands:
Readiest when we need Him most,
When to Him distressed we cry;
All who on His mercy trust
Shall find deliverance nigh.

Kept by Him, we scorn to fear
In danger’s blackest day,
Starting at destruction near,
Though nature faint away,
Though the stormy ocean roar,
Though the madding billows rise,
Rage, and foam, and lash the shore,
And mingle earth and skies.

Let earth’s inmost center quake,
And shattered nature mourn,
Let unwieldy mountains shake,
And fall by storms uptorn,
Fall with all their trembling load
Far into the ocean hurled,
Lo! We stand secure in God,
Amidst a ruined world.

From the throne of God there springs
A pure and crystal stream,
Life, and peace, and joy it brings
To His Jerusalem:
Rivers of refreshing grace
Through the sacred city flow,
Watering all the hallowed place
Where God resides below.

God most merciful, most high,
Doth in His Sion dwell,
Kept by Him their towers defy
The strength of earth and hell;
Built on her o’ershadowing Rock,
Who shall her foundations move?
Who her great defender shock—
The Almighty God of love.

All that on this Rock are stayed
The world assaults in vain,
Ever present with His aid
He shall His own sustain:
Guardian of the chosen race,
Jesus doth His church defend,
Save them by His timely grace,
And keep them to the end.


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