You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Psalm 139:5
My BSGs were talking the other day about sensing God’s presence. More specifically about the times we felt God was far away from us. So often when we are experiencing difficult trials we think “where is God?” But I’ve come to realize in my faith journey that the real question is the one God asks, “Will you come back to me and rest in my love?”
God surrounds us each and every day. In our verse today it’s expressed as “hemming us in.” For some that might seem restricting. But to me it evokes the concept of wrapping a baby tightly in a swaddling cloth. We do it so the baby feels the warmth and safety once felt while inside the womb. And that’s what God wants for us.
I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. John 14:18
Those are Jesus’ words. He sent us the Holy Spirit to always be in us. We don’t need to go looking for it. We don’t need to beg for it to descend upon us. God indwells. So, what is truly required of us when we experience difficult times is to rest in what is already available to us.
“It may look like I’m surrounded but I’m surrounded by you!”Upper Room, Surrounded (Fight My Battles)
When I think about the times I felt distanced from God I also think back to when the Israelites were out in the desert. They could actually see God’s spirit hovering over their camp day and night. And yet, they asked, “Where is God?” I don’t have the benefit of seeing a cloud follow me around day and night. And, I don’t have the physical Jesus to sit down with at dinner to share my problems. So, I give myself a bit of grace when I forget He is always with me.
When I rest and tap into the strength and love and goodness of the Holy Spirit I find that promised peace. It most likely won’t change the circumstances of the trial I’m experiencing. But knowing He is with me, with His hand laid upon me, gives me the strength to continue.
My friend Betsy is an avid, extreme hiker. Last year, at 70 years old, she set off to tackle the John Muir Trail solo. She came to a particularly difficult portion and her body starting giving her troubles. She has dreamed of this trip for years – and attempted it a few times. She became distraught that she couldn’t go on. With her, in case of emergency, was her Iphone. She made the decision to use it to listen to some Christian music in the midst of this struggle. As she reached the crest of the difficult portion, filled with the music of the Holy Spirit, her mind was transformed. She had plugged back in to her closeness with God.
Betsy wasn’t able to complete her goal. But she gained so much more. A confirmation that God never leaves us. We just need to rest in that “hemmed in” space He provides.
Here’s a prayer from Sparkling Gems from the Greek to pray when we feel separated from God:
Lord, I thank you that I am not a spiritual orphan in this world. You did not abandon me or leave me to figure out everything on my own. You sent the Holy Spirit to me to be my Teacher and Guide. So right now, I open my heart wide to the Holy Spirit, so He can be the Helper You sent Him to be in my life. I give You thanks for sending this divine Helper and I ask You to teach me how to lean upon Him more and more in the course of my life. I pray this in Jesus’ name!