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There is a River

Updated: Apr 19

"There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,

the holy place where the Most High dwells."

Psalm 46:4

Today we welcome in the new year.

As always, New Year’s brings a sense of renewal, second chances, and anticipation. We love new beginnings just as much as we love peeling back the wrapping paper of presents addressed to us. "New" is appealing. At the beginning of the year, we tend to dream again. We set new goals and make new resolutions. We feel free to speculate and imagine. Ah yes, "new" brings excitement.

However, I have a strong sense that what we need most this year is something old. Something ancient.

In Psalms 46 we’re introduced to an ancient river. The psalmist proclaims, "God has a constantly flowing river whose sparkling streams bring joy and delight to his people. His river flows right through the city of God Most High, into his holy dwelling places" (Psalm 46:4 TPT).

This stream, flowing from the throne of God, has been the life source of His people through the ages. It testifies to His faithfulness, compelling us to remember the larger story. Although governments fail, nations rage, and kingdoms rise and fall, there is a constant One. There is an ancient flow.

We can find strength and hope in what has stood the test of time. Immanuel himself flows within us. We are His holy dwelling places, and when we plant ourselves beside this stream, He sustains us just as He sustained those who have gone before us. Upstream are countless witnesses to the faithfulness of God. Regardless of the season, their leaves did not wither and neither will ours. Fruit will remain.

Some of the greatest fruits produced over the long history of this river are the stories and songs of deliverance sung by the people of God. Their testimony gives credibility to God’s sustaining power. I believe what we long for most is not answers, but to be reminded that we do not suffer alone. Connection to this ageless stream not only nourishes us but binds us together with those present and with those who have gone before us.

Lately I’ve been reflecting on the origin stories behind old hymns and reading the intimate and prayerful discourse of believers past in books like Conversations with God: Two Centuries of African American Prayer. As I read, I’m reminded that those who have gone before us have something to teach us. These saints of old remind us that a new song is possible even if the backdrop is turmoil. We know that many of the greatest hymns ever penned were conceived in the throes of tragedy, and as I hear their witness, I’m reminded of the heart of the Father. He’s always listening to the cries of His children and constantly flowing near to them.

I know the ancient river "whose streams make glad the city of our God" (Psalms 46:4 NIV) enabled their song. Let us join in that chorus, with the great cloud of witnesses, testifying to the faithfulness of our God. There is a heavenly sound that can be heard on Earth, and, since the beginning of time, it’s resounded from the throne room of God. When we remain connected to His stream, we receive the supply needed to join in this chorus.

As we face the beginning of a new year, I’m finding hope and peace in the proven history of God. It’s a history that predates me. It’s a history that predates us and yet unites us all.

In a new year, we can trust in an old source. Truly, He’s been good for a long time.

With Joy,


This article was first published in email by ONE on January 1, 2021.


Gabrielle Michelle Leonard

Gabrielle M. Leonard

Founder and Director of
Returning to Joy

Gabrielle Michelle Leonard is a dynamic speaker, facilitator, certified mental health coach, minister, and podcaster. She is known for being a captivating storyteller and bible teacher who imparts practical wisdom that heals the soul.

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