The Gift of Presence

Personally, I’d really like an easy life, and I’d like for God to give it to me (please).  I want him to promise that nothing terribly bad will happen to me or my family.  I want him to tell me that I’ll never experience deep hurt, harsh betrayal, or relational abandonment.   I want him to protect me from all sickness, confusion, and sadness.  And if he doesn’t keep all of those out of my life, then at least he’d better explain himself.  He’d better give a good reason why he would let anything bad enter the realm of my life. 

I think John Newton John Newton (18th Century pastor and author of the Hymn Amazing Grace) had someone like me in mind when he penned these words:

God’s people have no assurances that the dark experiences of life will be held at bay, much less that God will provide some sort of running commentary on the meaning of each day’s allotment of confusion, boredom, pain, or achievement.  It is no great matter where we are, provided we see that the Lord has placed us there, and that he is with us.

If we’re honest, I think we’d all like assurances that the dark experiences of life will be held at bay.  We’d rather not experience pain, loss, confusion, worry, or sadness, and yet these realities constitute our daily experience.  Day in and day out, in the church and in the counseling office, I talk with people who are in dark and difficult places.  And like John Newton says, none of us are given a ‘running commentary’ on the rhyme and reason for everything we face in life. 

So what are we to do?  What hope does God actually give us in the midst what I face day in and day out?  Years ago I came across a picture frame with a small cross inside, with this simple statement:  Sometimes, instead of giving us answers, God gives us himself. 

I first read these words during an extremely difficult time in my life.  I was hurting and wanted answers.  The pain didn’t go away quickly, and no clear answers were ever given.  But I slowly began to see and rest in the simple realities that God is with me and God is for me.   I see this reality throughout scripture, but I see it most clearly in Jesus, who plunged himself into our darkness, suffered in our place, rose to give us new life, enduring hope, lasting joy, and true peace.   

Day after day, I need these truths pressed deeply into my heart.  I need to be reminded of them, encouraged with them, and challenged by them.  I’m finding this is also true for people I talk with everyday.  Life can be hard and confusing, but I continue to come back to this simple hope – God is with me and God is for me