In theory, it’s easy to believe God remains near to us. In the repetition of Sunday School or Bible studies, we hear time and again that God will never leave nor forsake us. But do we believe this experientially? What about when He feels far or disconnected from our circumstances? In the marrow of our souls, do we sense His proximity?
We’re prone to view God’s nearness as circumstantial and as fickle as our own faithfulness, ebbing and flowing at the whims of our days. We might ask if the conditions surrounding us or our interior habits and attitudes pull God nearer or further, like the moon’s tug on ocean tides.
We regain footing in our lives as we practice reorienting ourselves by God’s faithfulness. We’re no longer tossed to and fro by the waves of circumstance or misled by emotion. Rather than using shifting conditions as our beacon, we can set our sights on God’s unchanging nature and His promises that He is always near to us, His children.
Hebrews 13:5 assures us, “For He has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” It’s powerful and necessary to view Scripture in its context to glimpse a fuller picture of God’s heart for us. Verses 5-6 in their entirety read:
“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for He has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The LORD is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’”
We can live contended lives characterized by deep satisfaction in the One who meets every need. When we feel lacking or without, we can press deeper into the presence of God, recognizing that He is our helper and we have no need to fear. Verse 8 continues with this assurance, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” We can trust the One who has provided for creation since the beginning of time because He is unchanging.
Because we know God’s character is unchanging, we can glean truth from His promises to the Israelite people. Although His words to them were unique, they reflect His care and love for all of His children. In Isaiah 43:2, God promised the Israelites, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.”
No matter the difficulties we’re walking through now or will endure in the coming days, God goes with us into every challenge. He does not step away nor merely cheer us on from the sideline. He enters the flood and fire and walks us through to the other side. Psalm 46:1 promises, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” It would have been sufficient to say, “God is with us in trouble.” Instead, the Psalmist chose to emphasize just how near God is. He used the word “very,” or מְאֹד (meh-ode’) in the Hebrew language meaning “exceedingly,” “mightily,” and “diligently.” God’s mighty presence is exceedingly near. He is diligently bringing us through our hardships and challenges.
After Jesus taught, served, died sacrificially, and was risen to new life, He returned to the Father’s side in heaven. Yet He did not leave those who had followed Him for several years on earth without hope. He assured them in Matthew 28:20, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
They might have felt God’s presence had left them in the following days. They had been by Jesus’ side for a few years, stared into His eyes as He taught, and sat beside Him at meals. Now He was physically away from them. Yet Jesus left them with the promise of His presence. Earlier, He had told them of a coming Helper — One who would remind them of all Jesus’ teachings. John 14:25-26 says, “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”
Jesus did not leave His disciples alone in the world, and He never leaves us on our own. His very Spirit, who knows the heart of God and intercedes for our lives, is within us. If you feel God has abandoned you or stepped away, take heart. Consider the disciples after Jesus left the earth. We are not left alone but kept safe in God’s presence and guided by His Spirit.
When your sky is cold and lonely
And your heart is filled with fear
I will wrap My arms around you
Know that I am here
And I will keep you safe and sound
Through the darkness that surrounds
I will never leave you
Nor forsake you
Know that I am with you
You will never be alone