God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1
We all get shaped by both nature and nurture. And our vision of God can be deeply affected by how we were raised, what our relationship with our parents and other authority figures was like, even what kinds of experiences we had if we went to church as kids.
For me, I had a stern, somewhat distant and demanding father. He was not a cruel man, but he came from a hardscrabble background during the Depression. To complicate his own development, his mom died when he was very young and he ended up spending a period of time in a boy's home while his dad worked to re-establish a home for him. The result -- a tough life created a tough man with a tough perspective on life.
Growing up, my perception was that he was always just a little disappointed in me. I just couldn't seem to quite measure up, or achieve everything he expected and therefore I always felt distant from him. It was like he was always on the other side of the room with a bit of a frown on his face.
I carried that image of 'father' into my relationship with God. When I got saved I was so relieved to be forgiven and there was a clear sense that I had passed out of death and into life. Because of some sound bible teaching early in my Christian life, I learned that God loved me and had a wonderful plan for my life. But there was always this nagging sense that he was not wholly pleased with me. Like my dad, he was standing on the other side of the room, a bit disappointed and hoping that I would live up to his expectations for me.
Most of my Christian life I worked hard at trying to narrow that gap. I 'knew' he loved me. I 'knew' I was not going to hell. I 'knew' he had promised good for me. Yet I could not shake the sense that there was distance between us. And no matter what I did, or didn't do, I could never completely bridge that gap.
Blessedly, in the last few years I have come to understand that there is no distance between us -- even on my worst day, even in the midst of my greatest failure! As the psalmist says, God is "very present" or as some translations put it, 'ever present'.
What is instructive and incredibly encouraging is when we look at the definition of these words in the Hebrew.
"Very" is the Hebrew word me'ôd and Strong's Exhaustive Concordance indicates that it is "properly vehemence, that is, (with or without preposition) vehemently."
Think of that... God is vehemently present! He is not casually interested, distant and aloof. He is not frowning, disappointed and disapproving.
No, he is wholly, completely, "loudly" (another Stong's word), vigorously and energetically invested in this, and every, moment with me!
To repeat, he is not standing across the room wondering how I will hold up in this trial, or curious about whether I will make something of my life. He is standing right next to me; accepting, cherishing, nourishing and supporting me. There is no gap or distance -- he is very present, ever present, continually present and has promised never to leave me or desert me!
Reflecting on that reality can I suggest that God is:
- A vehemently present helper -- Psalm 46:1 -- who will always be there to provide aid and help in need.
- A vehemently present comforter -- John 14:26 -- who is always along side to instruct us and bring his teachings to our minds.
- A vehemently present protector -- Heb 13:6 -- that releases us from the fear of what man can do unto us.
- A vehemently present listener -- Micah 7:7 -- to whom we can speak plainly and passionately without the need to yell or do crazy things to try and get his attention, because his ear is always open to us.
- A vehemently present friend -- James 2:23 -- who is there to share in our journey every step of the way and can bear all the good, the bad and the ugly of our story.
- A vehemently present healer -- Psalm 30:2 -- who is fully aware of our wounds and injuries and has the salve, the balm of Gilead, for our healing and wholeness.
- A vehemently present savior -- Hebrews 7:25 -- who will never give up on us, but will faithfully remain next to us as long as it takes for God to bring us to the fullness of what he has for us.
- A vehemently present advocate -- I John 2:1 -- who in the moment of our failure is not blaming or shaming, ridiculing or renouncing, but is continuously standing with us and for us, in righteousness, as a constant reminder to the Father of the magnitude of his redemptive work.
Be encouraged beloved, God is not disappointed or put off by your stumbling, bumbling and failure. Fact is, he is crazy about you, even on your worst day, and the evidence is that he is vehemently present every moment of every day of your life!
Can you take a moment and just pour out your heart to him in thankfulness and praise for that?!