“The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth” (Psalm 145:18). “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11). “When you did awesome things that we did not look for, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence” (Isaiah 64:3).
One of the things we as Christians are severely guilty of is saying Christian things without really thinking about what we are saying. We say things when we pray to God that we do not really think through. We say things to other believers when they are struggling, because they are the Christian things to say, yet we haven’t really thought about what we are saying. I believe there are many times in our prayers and in our encouragement to others that we just do not know what to say, so we resort to saying things that we think sound right.
One of those “Christianese” phrases we use is the concept of God’s presence. We tell God that we love his presence, and we ask for God to be present in circumstances. We ask that God would be near to people who are struggling. But what do we really mean when we speak of God’s presence?
I think one of the most important symbols that Jesus gave us that should symbolize us in our relationship with God is the image of a child. He told us that unless we become like a child, we will never enter the kingdom of heaven. I remember a few times when I was a child, when I would do something that was disobedient, I would be put on the stairs in a timeout. This was a perfect discipline for an active little boy like me.
But there were a few times that I was on the stairs and it was nighttime and only a few lights were on near me on the main floor. Up above me the lights were completely off. I remember that the worst part of those timeouts when that would happen would be my fear that the boogie man was going to come down from the darkness upstairs and take me away. What a silly little fear that I had in hindsight, but as a child, that fear would have been alleviated if either the lights were all on around me, OR if my Mom or Dad sat in timeout with me. Timeouts are for separation to encourage kids to think about what they have done, so isolation is necessary. When I think about my relationship with God as if I am a little child, I will remember the days I was afraid of being alone.
We are promised in the Scriptures that the Lord is near to those who call on him, that Gods presence brings fullness of joy, and that God’s presence is mighty and powerful. What an interesting combination of verses to consider if we are like little children. We must get off our spiritual high horses and remind ourselves what it was like to be alone in the darkness. When we were alone, there was fear and sadness as we sat feeling very powerless. In God’s presence we are not alone, and there is joy and pleasures as we sit by the Creator of all who is more powerful than all, and who is governed and driven by goodness and compassion.
When you are near to those who are suffering, it is appropriate to pray for God to be near to them. But as you pray for them, pray that they would learn the sweetness of the presence of Jesus. As you tell them that you are praying that God would be near to them, tell them why you are praying that, and tell them what you mean when you say that. And as you pray, truly think about what you are praying as you pray it, instead of just turning on the spiritual cruise control as you pray.