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Memorized Psalm Helps 56 Years Later

In the fall of 1956, I began my final year at the Stony Brook School, then a boys' college preparatory school in New York. Among the required courses that last year was Senior Bible, taught by the school's headmaster, Dr. Frank E. Gaebelein, a man who required us to memorize 300 verses of Scripture over the course of that year. If he met a student on the pathway from the class room to the dining hall, he might say, "Gordon, give me John 13:34 please." He expected us to recite the verse from memory without faltering.

One of the passages he tasked us to memorize was Psalm 46. For days we memorized, recited, memorized, recited until the Psalm 46 was part of us. "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble period. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea…."

In the spring of 1957, Senior Bible ended. We put our index cards away, graduated from Stony Brook, and went off to college. Occasionally, I returned to Psalm 46. As a pastor I preached on it a few times.

Now 56 years have passed. A few days ago my doctor called me. "Gordon, I have some difficult news for you. There's a tumor in the back of your head in the lining of the brain. It is not malignant, but it will have to come out." I have spent my whole life helping other people face doctor-call moments like these. Now it was my turn and the very first thing that began to surge through my mind was: "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble period. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed…."

When I was a teenager, a brilliant and godly man pumped my friends and me full of Scripture. But now his effort is paying off. Thanks to Dr. Gaebelein and Psalm 46, I may be concerned and cautious, but I am not inclined to be fearful.

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