“Can you help with this project?” Who else is on the team?
“Do you want to go see that movie with me?” Well, I don’t know. Who’s asking?
“Let’s take a road trip!” Hmm, who did you say would be driving?
The who in my story usually influences my decisions more than the what. In fact, the who can make the what and the where a superfluous backdrop. I can go anywhere on a rare night out with my husband and be perfectly happy just to be with him; and with the right friends, even the worst movie can be an occasion for laughter and fun.
So, when Jesus said, “Go into all the world and make disciples … I am with you always,” I eagerly set off to follow Him into missions (Matthew 28:19-20). And God’s reassurance to Joshua kept me there when I desperately wanted to quit during our second year in Alaska: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
Here I am, thirteen years later, and I still find myself crossing my arms with Moses, telling God, “If you don’t go, I’m not going. Either we’re in this together, or I’m out. Are you with me, God? Really with me?” (My super rough paraphrase of Exodus 33.)
Because, honestly, I can’t tell right now. God swept through my soul like a hurricane two years ago, reviving my dry bones and rekindling my passion for Him with an almost visceral fire. But that fire seems to have sputtered out. I’m tired. I’m distracted. I’m overwhelmed by the pandemic-frustrated state of the world right now, and I’m just not sure if God is still with me the way He was a couple of years ago.
My 6-year old daughter has decided she no longer wants to fall asleep by herself. She’s been in her own bedroom since she was one-year old, mind you, and never, before this last month, has she battled with an extreme fear of being alone in the dark.
A new house, a burst of brain development, and spiritual battles could all be to blame, but one thing I know–the way we respond to this as parents will set the stage for how we help her navigate other fears in life. As badly as I want to coddle my little princess and just lay with her until she falls asleep every night, I don’t want her to become so dependent on me that we can never leave her with a babysitter at bedtime. So I pray for her, reassure her that Jesus is with her, and promise to come back to check on her in ten minutes.
Sometimes, however, even that’s not enough. She doesn’t care that I’m sitting at the table just outside her bedroom door; she wants me right there with her. But I am with you, I try to comfort her. I’m right outside your door. You can trust me. I’m here and I won’t leave this house. You’re safe, and I’m still with you.
I want her to trust my nearness and care even when she can’t see me, can’t feel me.
Perhaps, Father God does the same.
I am with you
I’m practicing listening this year. Listening to the birds, to the harmonies in music, to my own physical and emotional needs, to friends without trying to fix anything, and to the Spirit of the Living God. But here’s the funny thing, in my scattered moments of listening recently, I keep hearing one repeated phrase.
“I am with you.”
And while my head knows this to be true of God, my heart apparently isn’t grasping it well. As I mentioned, when I’m real with myself in this COVID-crazed, stretched-thin-while-substitute-teaching, unable-to-find-the-rhythms-of-rest life, I discover my own separation anxiety. God, I can’t see you. I don’t feel you. Are you really still with me?
Yesterday, He whispered it again during a moment of worship. I ceased swaying to the music and almost held my breath. I didn’t want to leave that holy moment. I didn’t want to forget that yes, the God of the Universe is with me. The scene surrounding me faded away, and the only thing that mattered was my who.
Whether I can see Him, feel Him, or hear Him is irrelevant. He promised His presence, and I never have to doubt His nearness. The overwhelming awareness of His presence is a gift, but the lack of it is not a punishment. It could be that I’m just not paying enough attention, but it also could be a gentle nudge toward maturation and trust.
He is with me. Always.
He is with you. Always.
We can trust and we can rest like a child in His arms … even when His embrace feels more like a bottomless freefall. We always land safely on His promises. So, one more time, settle your heart in Jesus’ promise to His disciples (that’s you):
“Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: ‘God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.’” (Matthew 28:18-20 MSG)
He is the only who that truly matters in your story.
For a free devotional to help you remember your who in the driest desert, check out A 14-Day Wilderness Excursion Through the Bible. The download link is at the bottom of the page–no email required.
Corella Roberts makes her home in Northern Thailand where she and her husband partner with an international school to “Serve the Servants.” Their first missionary teaching assignment landed them in the remote bush of Alaska, which you can read about in her book, Colliding with the Call. From tundra to tropics, her life of following Jesus has been nothing less than story-worthy, and she loves using her experiences to encourage others to connect deeply with God at corellaroberts.com. You can also find her cleaning up legos or meandering their local market in search of mangosteen and lychee fruit.