The Lord is Near....
When our youngest son was little, he was deathly afraid of puppets. Every night when we tucked him into bed, we would have to check under the bed, under the covers, in the closet, in the drawers and in every corner to make sure there was no puppet lurking in the corner ready to eat him the minute we left the room. Our solution was to leave the door open a crack so that he could sense our nearness and wouldn't feel so alone in his room by himself. He wanted to know we were near.
Telling him to not be afraid didn't help. Explaining to him that puppets aren't real didn't help. The only thing that helped him was our nearness. Puppets overwhelmed him but our nearness calmed him. The little ray of light shining through the slightly open door, reminded him we were awake and aware of all that was going on in his room. He would drift off to sleep knowing we were able to keep any ill intentioned puppets at bay.
I don't think it's any secret we live in an anxiety prone world. Many of us are carrying burdens too big for us and live scared and anxious staggering under a weight we weren't meant to bear. When God breathed life into our souls, they were not designed to carry the weight of the consequences of sin and resulting heartache in our beautiful world.
Some of the burdens we carry are external like financial issues, health concerns, relational strain and in some cases, war, calamity and brutality.
Some burdens we carry are the common life-stage ones of unknown futures, the unknowns of raising kids and aging.
Other burdens are more of the secret sort. Perhaps, we have experienced spiritual abuse or trauma; soul wounding that is much too deep to share and may be even too hard to articulate. Maybe, we have experienced other types of abuse, carry the trauma of it every single day and feel there is a space in us that will never be whole. Maybe, words were spoken that cut deep and distorted our view of who we are.
Some of us carry things from our past and the fear that deep down we really are unlovable. We fear if people knew the real us, they would no longer love us. Because of this, many of us hide and carry a basket of different masks we wear to try to appease and please others.
Others of us fill our lives with tasks and busyness to hide our fears of not being enough. Silence is too hard to bear, so we hide by making our lives noisy. Some of us may carry the burden of past mistakes we can't seem to get around. We know we are forgiven, but still we are filled with shame and regret we can't seem to shake. Others of us isolate because we have found the pain of broken connection too great to bear and have decided that being alone is safer.
So many burdens and so many more not mentioned. We all have them.
All of these are burdens we carry. Burdens make us anxious because they are often cares we feel are bigger than we are. So often there is fear, shame, and disappointment alongside the burdens we carry. When the burdens are too great, the anxiety often shows up in so many ways including the way we treat both the ones we love and strangers. An anxious person is rarely a gentle person.
Philippians 4:6-7 are common verses we quote about being anxious. "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God..." So many times when the verse is quoted, we begin with verse 6: "Do not be anxious about anything.....", but this is missing the most important part of the passage.
We can grit our teeth all we want and try as hard as we want to not be anxious, but like our son with the puppets, we often cannot reason the anxiety away. Unlike our son's fear of imaginary puppets, many of our 'puppets' are real and often truly harmful or devastating. They are real problems and usually not imaginary ones. We need to rest our anxiety on something bigger than we are. The preceding sentence in Philippians 4:5 actually begins with the REASON we do not need to be anxious.
5 "Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in EVERY situation, by prayer and petition , with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:5-7
We do not need to fear because the Lord is near. Truthfully, if that were not true, we WOULD have reason to be anxious or fear. God being near, gives us the courage to pray. We will not pray about our burdens if we do not believe He is actually there, listening and loving towards us. Him being near gives us the courage to face life as it truly is. If we aren't praying, we may truly believe He is not very near, all that interested in us or is not all that loving.
Most of us would not say that, but we live what we truly believe. Even this isn't a problem for Him. We can pray that He gives us a truer view of Himself. He will never be less loving or caring than we had hoped Him to be. The God who holds our world, also holds our lives.
There is not a place where we are, where God is not. His presence with us does not depend on our awareness of Him. Any one of us who turns our attention towards Him will find that His attention was already turned towards us. When He looks at us, it is always with love because He IS love. He can't do anything apart from love.
'The Lord is near' is the equivalent of telling a scared child, 'Daddy is here.' So often, those words are all that is needed to comfort a child. A child easily rests in the 'bigness' of the parent. We have a God who holds all things, both big and small, in His hands. There is not a thing in our lives He doesn't know what to do about. He hasn't promised an easy or trouble free life, but He HAS promised to never leave us or forsake us.
When we walk through valleys, He is there. When we experience the joys of life, He is there. He is always near. He is near when we can see Him and when we can't. He is near when we succeed and when we fail. He is near when our loved one is miraculously healed or tragically dies. He is near when our heart is full of joy and when it is hiding in the dark. He is near no matter what and promises to be near no matter what. Sometimes it takes a while to see it.
What are the 'puppets' in your life? What are the scary things you are trying to avoid so that you can feel safe? Where does the peace of God need to guard you today? Where in your life does He want to remind you that He is near? Can you see the light coming through the door of your heart reminding you that you are not alone and the God who loves you deeply and wholly is awake and aware of all of the deepest places in you?
The Lord is near when we don't have the financial resources we need to survive. He is our provider.
The Lord is near when we or a loved one is sick and the Lord is near even in death. He is our healer and comforter.
The Lord is near when disaster strikes and devastation comes. He is the protector of our souls.
The Lord is near when relationships are strained and we don't know what to do. He is the restorer and wisdom giver.
The Lord is near when we don't know the next step to take and don't know what our future holds. He is the future holder.
The Lord is near when we are raising kids and need wisdom in the day to day. He is the wisdom giver.
The Lord is near as we age and our body wears out. He is our future hope.
The Lord is near when we have experienced spiritual abuse and are confused. He is our life redeemer and can turn ashes to beauty.
The Lord is near when we have experienced trauma and abuse. He is our gentle healer and can give us hands to hold as we process our lives.
The Lord is near when our view of ourselves has been distorted by words. He is our creator and knows who we are. Another's words never alter His view of us.
The Lord is near when we feel shame in our deepest places. He sees all of us and loves us deeply. His love goes beneath our deepest shame. He is the lifter of our heads.
The Lord is near when we wear masks. He is the one who sees all.
The Lord is near when we hide behind our busyness. He is our peace.
The Lord is near when our past mistakes speak louder than His voice. He is our forgiver.
The Lord is near when we are alone suffocating in loneliness. He is our friend.
He is our ever present help in time of trouble. (Psalm 46:1)
The Lord is near every single day of our lives, and this is good news for us!
We do not have to do life on our own. God never intended for us to live life without Him. Even some of us who have 'given our lives to Him' still functionally live our lives on our own. He desires so much more for us and with us. He longs to daily bear our burdens (Psalm 68:19) He has promised to never leave us or forsake us (Joshua 1:5) Some roads we take may be long and hard; there may be darkness and confusion, but He is always near through it all. May we all live our day today knowing He is near.
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