“He is near.”
I say that a lot these days. In the hallway. In class. In this space. At my kitchen table last night while a candle flickers, light playing off our faces. I say it to convince others but I say it to convince myself too.
He is near.
He is near because his word says he is near. Because he is Emmanuel, God with us. Because He came to earth as a baby and wrapped in rags and humility. He is near because he was a suffering servant, drinking a cup that wasn’t taken from him, even when He asked. He is near because he walked through the valley, in the shadow of his own death. Near because he is God, encompassing, creating, drawing, loving, shepherding. He is near not because we feel His nearness, but because He says He is near.
Three comforts if you feel He is not near:
1. His nearness is not a feeling, it is a truth.
The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry. Psalm 34.15
We may be in the same room with one another, not touching, but there is usually the feeling of presence. But what about those times when you don’t feel that closeness? In my office my chair back is to the door so it is the office joke to startle me. Sometimes I don’t know someone is standing there for a long time. I can’t feel their presence, but it doesn’t change the truth that they are standing there, feet behind me.
When we feel far from God it is important to note that our feelings cannot be trusted. Primarily because being apart from God is not a place where we will be sitting in truth. But also because our feelings are simply untrue in this case. God cannot be far off, He omniscient (having infinite knowledge), omnipotent (holding unlimited power), omnipresent (present everywhere). That is the truth. Our feelings are important, but they are important mainly to God and that is the most important thing when we feel far from Him.
2. We know it’s true because His word can be trusted.
For the word of the Lord is true, and all his work is done in faithfulness. Psalm 33.4
When we doubt our feelings, when it seems He is not coming through, not answering us, or has turned a cold shoulder to us, it is time for us to first confess those emotions to Him. He is not surprised by our doubt. He is not scrambling for a plan B. He is not trying to sweep up the pieces of our lives. He is God and we know that because His word says He is God and words, right there, in that beautiful book, breathed by the Spirit and recorded for us can be trusted. Dreams, emotions, prophetic words, others, feelings—these fail. His word does not fail.
3. We can trust His word because His word does not return void.
So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. Isaiah 55.11
God can not be mocked. No, even more, He will not be mocked. He won’t stand for it. So neither will His Word. That may seem jeering and standoffish to us, but if we come a bit closer I think we will see what a warm blanket that promise is. That promise means that He is for us, His children, His interest. That promise means that He is deeply involved in our cares and our feelings as they concern Him. Why? Because He won’t be mocked. He won’t be standing there on that final day wondering what went wrong. That means we’re safe, we may feel unsafe, but if you’re His child, you’re safe. He’s got this.
Because He is near.