Summary: God is present in our joy, our despair, and in our hope.
As I and many of you are trekking through the Bible in our daily Bible reading, toward the end of February, one of our reading assignments was Psalm 42. I want to spend a little time in that Psalm today as we talk about the present of God’s presence.
There is said to be a strange plant in South America, which finds a moist place and rests there for a while, sending its roots down and becoming green. When this bit of ground dries up, the plant draws itself together, roots and all, and is blown along by the wind until it finds another moist spot, where it once again sends its roots down. On and on it goes, stopping wherever it finds a little water and staying until the water is gone.
The life of this plant is a good illustration of people who drink only of this world’s springs. They go on from spring to spring, looking for things that make them happy for a while, until at the end of their life, they find they are nothing but unsatisfied. THAT is the situation that you will find if you never allow God’s presence into your life. That thirst will never be quenched.
The writer of Psalm 42 is someone who knew what it felt like to thirst for God’s presence. He writes, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; When shall I come and appear before God? Psalm 42:1-2.
This person, before taken into exile, would sing praises of joy and thanksgiving as he led the people in a procession to the house of God. But now, as this person sits in captivity sits in anguish and recalls those joyful days. His captors taunt him all day long asking, “Where is your God now?” But the psalmist reassures himself of God’s presence even while he is in such despair. He remembers when God was with him in the joy-filled days because he had been spiritually renewed.
When you’re spiritually renewed by becoming one of God’s children, you’re prepared for a life in the will of God. As a believer, you have the presence of God in your body and you should always be conscious of the fact that God is present, in the good times and the bad. So the question is, “Where is God in your life?” The answer is, “He is everywhere.”
First, He is present in your joy. Deep in our subconscious minds we know that. But, correct if I’m wrong, don’t we have a tendency to leave God out when things are going well. We tend to forget God when times are good. Are we so blessed that small gifts don’t excite us? The problem might be that most of us have more than we need. We have overlooked our need to be grateful for everything, including the joyful times.
Think of a time in your life when a single letter or a single gift was very precious to you. Or maybe you can remember a time when you were in a less-well-off place in your life when a single morsel of food seemed like a feast. Remember how thankful you were.
What has changed? The prophet Zechariah said in Zech. 4:10, “Who despises the day of small things?” If the answer to that question is ‘you’, then maybe you’ve overlooked the need to be grateful for all things. No blessing is too small not to merit a big thanks to God. The psalmist remembered the joy he felt and how God was present with him sharing that joy.
So the moral to this story is this: as you create memories during the good times of life, let God’s presence be a part of that memory. Thank God for that special time and the memory that will always be a part of you. God is present in your joy.
But God is also present in your despair. Yes, even in the dark times of your life, God is there. Many tend to think that God has abandoned them during their trials of life. Maybe that’s why people tend to come to church more when things are really going badly—the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, the breakup in a relationship, or the attack on our nation. But what seems to be despair from God can actually strengthen us. James wrote, “Consider it all joy, … , when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” James 1:2-3.
Our struggles can make us stronger. A man learned this when he found a cocoon of a butterfly and watched a small opening appeared. He continues to watch for several hours as the butterfly struggled to force its body through that little hole. Then it seemed to stop making any progress.