Thursday, November 5, 2009

"Very Present"

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea." (Psalm 46:1-2)

Believers hold as a matter of Biblical doctrine the blessed reality of God's omnipresence. He is present any and everywhere, and "the whole earth is full of His glory" (Isaiah 6:3; Psalm 139:7).
There is nevertheless a place where Scripture declares God to be more present than in other venues. He is "very present" in His children's troubles. We speak not of proximity, of course, but rather of our Heavenly Father's propensity for compassion, mercy, and lovingly taking upon Himself the cares of His children. He draws near to us when we hurt, and as "the God of all comfort," our Lord purposes to apply the balm of grace to the deepest part of our heart, indeed, to that place where only He can go (II Corinthians 1:3).

It doesn't always feel this way, however. The same David who rejoiced in God's "very present help" also cried out to his Lord in distress, "Why standest Thou afar off, Lord? Why hidest Thyself in times of trouble?" (Psalm 10:1). The Holy Spirit led David to not only proclaim the conviction of his heart, but also the questioning of his flesh. Every honest believer will attest to the same dichotomy of trusting but also wondering when pain, loss, sorrow, and heartbreak comes our way. "Lord, I believe. Help Thou mine unbelief" (Mark 9:24). We are not yet perfected, and feelings of doubt will often accompany a heart of confident faith. "When I would do good, evil is present with me" (Romans 7:21).

Our present existence involves not the elimination of doubt, but the overcoming of it through the power of the Holy Spirit. When trouble comes, and God seems far away, we may know in our hearts that He is actually more near than at any other time. Doubts may remain nonetheless, and so long as we do not embrace them, we have not fallen into unbelief. "Whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith" (Mark 11:23). Our Lord reveals that doubt is a matter of the heart rather than the flesh. So long as we are affirming therein our confidence in God's "very present help, our faith is intact and is actually fed by the feelings of doubt that give us the opportunity to declare, "Regardless of what I feel, or what thoughts may be running through my mind, herein I stand: God is present, is very present in this distress, and He is everything and more that I need Him to be."

If we've ever had a sympathetic feeling toward a hurting loved one, we have tasted the emotion of God toward us when we hurt. But only a taste. Indeed, we have no emotional framework capable of accommodating the feeling our Heavenly Father feels in His compassion toward us. Thus, "the Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart" (Psalm 34:18). Again, it will not always seem that He is "very present" in trouble. But it will always be true that He is.

"The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion."
(Psalm 111:4)

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