One-a-Day...for the Heart: Nearer My God to Thee
There are times when no one can comfort or allay fear except the Lord. Imagine the terror of being a young soldier drafted into war, perhaps separated from family and friends for the first time in his life. I cannot imagine the intensity of fear he would feel knowing that the weapon he has been issued is the only sure defense he has to destroy the enemy. If his comrades perish before he does, he will face being alone, possibly captured or killed, tortured or imprisoned, never to see his loved ones again. How could a young person think clearly at such a time?
Elijah couldn’t. David struggled with that fear, too. Both men were mighty men of God—one even a prophet! Yet Elijah cowered in a cave to escape the wicked Queen Jezebel’s bullying threats on his life (1 Kings 19). More than once, David fled to the wilderness to escape enemies who were hot on his trail. During those times of profound fear and desperate isolation, David said things like, “Deliver me from my enemies, O God; be my fortress against those who are attacking me. Deliver me from evildoers and save me from those who are after my blood. I have done no wrong, yet they are ready to attack me. Arise to help me; look on my plight!” (Psalm 59:1, 4-5).
Both men had learned how to draw near to the Lord. It didn’t happen overnight, and neither of them woke up one morning talking to a theophany of Jesus over a cup of coffee. They cultivated a relationship of closeness—nearness—to the Lord, and learned how He thought, talked, acted, dreamed, disciplined, and related to humanity and the world He’d created. What a treasure to draw from when war came, or loneliness and fear consumed their hearts. From their treasure chest, they could obtain the Lord’s comfort, courage, wisdom, counsel, guidance, power, protection, provision, and peace.
Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you, James 4:8 declares. The meaning is to cleave to Him, and God will cleave to you. A key part of that dynamic is disclosed in the preceding verse 7: Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Our enemy, the devil, blocks our access to God, so when we resist him, something powerful happens as God rewards our faith by coming near to us and cleaving to us. I need that! Do you? Sometimes no one else will do. Many times, really.
The young soldier in battle, the cancer patient facing death, the homeless person lost in an uncaring world—all need the nearness of God. But for me, it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all Your works (Psalm 73:28). When the Lord cleaves to us, it’s as though He bends toward us in a favorable, benevolent manner. How tender. How comforting and reassuring. I cannot imagine a soldier on any battlefield who would not welcome such an encounter.
Time with the Lord is a prescription that never expires for cultivating the nearness of God. It always works! Nothing else can be substituted for drawing near to God and having Him reciprocate.
Do you sense the nearness of God? Is He favorably, benevolently bending toward you and cleaving to you? There is nothing He desires more. The soldier on a battlefield does not have the option to clutter his schedule with the busyness of life—texting, television, phone conversations, house repairs, shopping, lunch dates, appointments, etc. The intensity of his situation consumes his thoughts and actions. At such a time of need—be it extreme fear, loneliness, sadness, sickness, or despair--I believe the Holy Spirit hovers over us, longing to cleave to us as we draw near to Him. Take a few minutes right now to acknowledge Him as you would a friend. Start a conversation with Him. He will come near. We thank you, O God! We give thanks because you are near (Psalm 75:1 NLT).
© 2022, Chris Werre