Summary: A short talk given at an all-Saints' Memorial Day service, giving thanks to God for loved ones who have died. In short, God knows us, God stays close to us, and God made us.
In 2008 I spent seven months in bed suffering from severe debilitating pain in my neck. My neck muscles were twisting my head in 3 directions. My right ear was almost resting on my shoulder. In many ways it was a horrible time. It tested my faith. The result was a deeper trust in the God who knows me, God who stays close to me; God who made me.
I love watching ‘Spooks’ on the Television. I watch with fascination as the MI5 officers use face and speech recognition software to track down suspects. They track mobile phones and car registration plates. They access personal information. They tap into CCTV cameras and I wonder to myself just how accurate it all is; probably very accurate! Of course, you and I are not like the suspects being tracked by MI5, but God has had all of that technology contained within Him since the very creation of the world. The thought of big brother watching is nothing compared to God’s personal and intimate knowledge of us.
In our Bible reading the author begins by displaying some anxiety with the fact that God knows every little detail about him. He refers to God who has searched him and God who knows him (139:1). God knows about every occasion when he sits down and each time he gets up; and God knows his every thought, something that even MI5 is not yet capable of (139:2). More than that, even before a word is on his tongue, God, his Lord, knows it’s completely. No wonder he feels hemmed in, and some English translations of the Bible render this as feeling besieged by God (139:5). Such knowledge is too wonderful for the author. God knows him completely, just as God knows you, and I, in every conceivable way. Understandably, that might worry you, but the good news is that the God who knows you is also the God who will stay close to you; however dark or difficult life might be for you right now or in the future.
I can remember times during my illness in 2008 lying in my bed in the darkness crying out to God.
My future seemed so uncertain and I was asking, “God, can you hear me?” God, can you hear me?
I’ve got three children and ever since they were babies my wife Moira has heard every single murmur. Even now that they are 16, 12 and 7 she hears them when they call out from their beds and when she darts from our bedroom into theirs Moira (like an angel) is almost as quick as Usain Bolt. In a flash she is by their sides with a drink, a kiss, medicine, a soft word in their ear, a cuddle or whatever is needed.
The Jewish King David, the author of our Bible reading, experienced something similar, and this Bible reading was a source of great comfort, encouragement, and inspiration to me during my most difficult days. I read these words: ‘if I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there’ (139:8).
God knows you and God stays close to you. We can run but we can’t hide. I can hop on a bus or a train; go for a walk or hide in my room and God stays close.
In the depths of despair God stays close. If I say, ‘surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me’, even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you (139:11-12). My experience has been that even in the most difficult and trying, and perhaps darkest of circumstances the light of God, the presence of God, and the comfort of God shines through. God knows me and God stays close to me because he made me. He made you.
‘You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb’ (139: 13).
Some very special people in my life have died this year. Where they once were there is now a very real gap. Back in 2008 I was grieving for the loss of my health, but God very gently reminded me that he was near. He filled me with his peace, and I believe he wants to fill you with his peace today and for the rest of your life. God knows you. God will always stay close to you because he made you.