God knows. That’s what the first six verses of Psalm 139 teach.
God is close. This is what the next six verses of the 139th Psalm tell us.
Difficulties in life have a way of making us feel as if God is closer to us or further away. Psalm 139 teaches something entirely different. Circumstances don’t change God nor how He close to us He is.
There is a popular current in American Christianity that teaches something along the lines of, “If you are right with God, all will be right in your world.” This “theology” works great so long as all is well in your world. But by embracing this brand of Christianity, many trade in true Christianity for a cheap counterfeit. What makes this counterfeit Christianity so dangerous is that it often isn’t until life falls apart, disaster strikes or one’s feelings about their relationship with God darkens, that they realize they’re missing something.
A rock solid faith—such as the faith of Job, King David or the sinful woman who anointed Jesus’s feet with her tears and perfume and wiped them with her hair—knows the love of a God that is close to us even when we feel that His love is far removed.
The Christian faith is anchored by the unchanging love of God. He lived with us, died, rose and now lives within us. The Psalmist teaches that God is so close to His children, that even when we feel He is far away, He is closer to us than we can fathom.
7 Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! (Psalm 139:7-8, ESV)
From the highest heaven to the bowels of hell. These verses sound like the roller coaster of life lived with an addict. Anyone who has experienced the hell-ride of a loved one’s addiction knows what I’m talking about.
Watered-down Christianity—based on ten steps to a better this or seven steps to being a better that—teaches that those who live right and raise kids right won’t experience the traumas of life with an addict. Virtuous living certainly decreases the odds of experiencing the ups and downs of addiction. But odds don’t matter when addiction is ruining your life.
Many lives are ruined by someone else’s addiction. Many others have been ruined by an addiction begun when taking pain medication for a legitimate injury. Regardless of cause, be it begun intentionally or accidentally, during drug abuse, many lives are ruined when those who are caught in addiction push everyone, including God, away.
Now, I don’t think the Psalmist was writing about addiction specifically in these verses, but there is comfort for all in knowing that God is close when life is out of control. We may feel out of control. We may even be out of control. But our ups and our downs are not out-of-bounds for God. He is always there. He is always love.
After the crash, when no one is left, it is good to know God is still there. Even after we push Him away, He is still there. Like the Prodigal’s father, He is always there for His children.
9 If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me. (Psalm 139:9-10, ESV)
Taking up wings. Traveling the high seas. Sounds like those who serve in the Navy to me. Faithful men and women who serve in the armed forces know how true these verses are.
Reading stories of the survivors of the USS Indianapolis, I came to a better appreciation of these verses. The men on that ship delivered the bomb that was later dropped on Hiroshima. Their delivery promised a swift end to World War Two. But only days after they delivered the weapon that brought Japan to its knees, their ship was twice torpedoed by a Japanese sub and went down into shark infested waters.
1,196 men were on the ship. Some 900 made it into the water. Only 317 of the crew survived days adrift at sea. They survived with no food and little fresh water in shark infested waters.
Many men who knew the closeness of their Savior reported that He got them through their ordeal. Others who never thought of God nor believed in Him became believers through this tragedy. Some men even dedicated their lives to God’s service in response to His calming presence during the unimaginable suffering they endured waiting for a rescue they hoped for, but didn’t know for certain would come.
It often isn’t until confronted with difficulty or tragedy that we realize how close God is all along. He has a way of revealing His presence through the struggles that lead many to question His existence and love. His power is so great that He uses events with which Satan would try to take us from Him to draw us ever closer to Himself.
You don’t have to serve in the military to know this. Tragedy isn’t a requirement to attaining such knowledge. This is clearly taught by the Holy Spirit in these verses.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you. (Psalm 139:11-12, ESV)
Find yourself in a dark place? Do you feel that God is far away or has removed Himself or His love from you? If so, you may be right where God wants you.
He is not the author of evil. In the perfect world He created, His creatures never suffered. But in a post-fall, broken world, He uses human suffering to draw His children ever closer to Himself.
By the power of Christ’s resurrection and through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, God is nearer than we can imagine. If He loves us enough to give us everlasting life, His love is certainly great enough to bring us through the difficulties of this life. Our circumstances change us and how we feel, but they will never change Him or how He feels about us. How great it is to know the strength and grace of our ever-present and ever-loving God!
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Tagged: Addict, Addiction, Christ, Christian, Close, Closeness, Darkness, Depression, God, Grace, hope, Japan, Japanese, Jesus, love, Lutheran, Navy, Prodigal, Psalm 139, Shark Attack, Sharks, Submarine, Suffer, Suffering, Torpedo, USS Indianapolis