In 1961, Yuri Gagarin made history as the first human to journey into outer space and orbit the earth.
Despite the marvel of this incredible achievement, Yuri famously stated that he did not see God in his cosmic journey. We do sometimes have a limited understanding of God’s presence, and in life find ourselves tripping over truth and bias. Winston Churchill almost immediately raises a challenge of his own; “Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened.”
Gagarin’s comment may seem negative at first glance, (and it was) but I think to some extend it can be understood as a reflection of mankind’s limited understanding of God’s presence. We look, but we don’t see. As the Bible teaches us, God is omnipresent and always with us, even if we cannot physically see him or comprehend Him. Gagarin’s comment is a challenge for us to see by faith and give ourselves a reminder that in this vast universe, with all of its mysteries and wonders, God is present and with us every step of the way.
As always, the issues of life, even the difficult, practical ones are served by the scriptures. Travel out into the darkness of Space and Psalm 139:7-12 will speak comfort to you asking, “Where shall I flee from your presence?” The answer, of course, is nowhere. No matter where we go, be it to the highest mountain peak, the depths of the ocean, the farthest corner of the world, or even the depths of our own minds, God’s presence will be there.
It is an immutable truth, a constant reminder that no matter what, God is always with us. It’s what God always wanted — to be with His people — and because of Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension it has now been achieved. This can be both a comfort and a challenge, as it means that there is nowhere to hide from God’s all-knowing gaze. God is always there, and that He knows our innermost thoughts, feelings, and desires and we will strive to live a life that is pleasing to Him, one which is filled with love, compassion and mercy. It means there is never another moment when God speaks to His creation saying, “Adam, Where are you?” God never hides from us, and we are always in full view of His omniscient gaze.
Running in circles
For those who are “running” (trying to) from God, as Jonah famously attempted to do, the fact that God is with us, indwelling us may seem a disheartening truth, yet, for those who have placed their trust in Him and have a living relationship with Him, it’s a source of tremendous comfort and assurance. After all, as the psalmist declares in Psalm 23:4, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”
“God with us is”, is more awesome than “God watching us”, but even there, the God who promises us that when we go into the private place to pray promises us that the God who sees us seeking Him in secret will reward us openly.
Psalm 23:4 reiterates the fact that, regardless of the circumstances of our lives, we can have confidence that God is with us, providing encouragement, support and guidance. Without doubt, no matter the fiercest storm you may face, God’s presence is our source of strength and hope.
Three wise comments
This profound truth of God’s constant presence is something that has been echoed by many Christians throughout history. Augustine challenges us from a distance, “God is closer to us than we are to ourselves.” The gospel is not only the message of our salvation but also the message of God’s abiding presence in us. He is in us not just around us or close by! John Piper is ever encouraging, “God’s omnipresence means he is equally present with all his children at all times, everywhere.”
Grace is not just forgiveness; it’s the power to change and even though we may not see God, He is at work in our hearts by His Spirit. God’s continual presence is a continuous reminder that He is always near and will never abandon us, no matter our circumstances.
It doesn’t matter how bad things get, even when we fail, like Peter who denied Christ, God’s mercy and kindness are never-ending. The Bible teaches us that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). We can take comfort in knowing that no matter where we go or what we do, God is always there, always present and always loving.
With us – forever!
His grace and mercy are limitless, extending far beyond our mistakes and failures and as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12), and we can be confident that His hand will always guide us and hold us, no matter what we face in life. He is our constant companion, and He will never leave us, even when we feel that we have been abandoned. He is always there, ready to provide us with the strength and courage to face whatever comes our way. I may be labouring the point, but it needs to be said and treasured.
So the challenge for us is not an easy one; to fully embrace and believe that God is always present with us – no matter where we journey, no matter what we do, or the difficulties we face. We need to trust that he sees us, hears us and is always leading us in the right direction.
This can be a difficult concept to come to terms with, but with faith and obedience, we can expand our knowledge of God’s infinite love and grace. One of Augustine’s most famous and loved quotes helps us here, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.”
Slipping through our fingers
To truly trust in God’s presence, we do well to let our attachments to the world slip through our fingers and focus on Him, using our faith and obedience as a means of growing closer to Him and finding our true comfort and security in His divine love. He is the only one that can fill the void that we each have within us and grant us the peace and joy that we so desperately seek.
Let’s remember that God’s mercy and kindness towards us are never-ending and inexhaustible. His grace is a source of both hope and redemption, and it can be found in the most unlikely of places and at the most inopportune time with some very ordinary people.
So, let’s embrace God’s presence, trust in his grace and experience the transformation that comes with it, and though you may not be able to travel out into space, you know that even if you couldn’t see Him He is with you, for you and in you.