Far too often, the fact that God is ever-present has been used in a negative way in Christendom. I know many who are terrified by this prospect because they see him as a fierce judge who is staring at them, waiting for them to mess up. But that is not what Jesus meant when he says he'll never leave us. He means it as an encouragement.
If you are terrified of God’s presence, then you need to gain a right view of God so that you’ll feel safe, rather than threatened, in his presence. Consider this psalm of David:
O Lord, you have examined my heart
and know everything about me.
You know when I sit down or stand up.
You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
You see me when I travel
and when I rest at home.
You know everything I do.
You know what I am going to say
even before I say it, Lord.
You go before me and follow me.
You place your hand of blessing on my head.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too great for me to understand!
I can never escape from your Spirit!
I can never get away from your presence!
If I go up to heaven, you are there;
if I go down to the grave, you are there.
If I ride the wings of the morning,
if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
even there your hand will guide me,
and your strength will support me.
I could ask the darkness to hide me
and the light around me to become night—
but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day.
Darkness and light are the same to you. (Ps. 139:1–12, NLT)
The beginning of this psalm can rattle us because we realize that we can’t put anything over on God. Although we may fool others, he knows everything we are thinking. In spite of that, God loves us and wants to enter into our thoughts—even when they are wretched. As the psalmist says, “You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!”
Note that even though God knows all your thoughts, he places his hand of blessing on your head. The psalmist is so bowled over by this that he can’t quite get a grasp on it. It’s amazing to him. In today’s vernacular, we might say, “You follow me, you surround me, and you keep your hand on me. I can hardly believe this! It’s more than I can take in! You never, ever let go of me, even when I mess up.”
The image is of a loving parent with a very young child, keeping a firm hand on her to keep her safe, stroking her head to help her get to sleep at night, doing everything possible to make sure she is loved and cared for. Even when she is defiant, even when she is completely unlikeable, the parent loves her.
So whether we travel, rest at home, ride the wings of the morning, dwell by the farthest oceans—even if we go down to the grave—God is there. And he’s a loving God who cares about us and wants to carry us through our toughest times.
What does this mean for our fears? We are never alone! He will never leave us for a moment.
I have found this especially comforting when I am alone and afraid. My imagination can conjure up all sorts of disasters, but what I’m learning to do is to instead imagine that Jesus is right beside me, because he is!
In a strange little book called God Guides, Mary Geegh—a missionary to India in the early 1900s—tells the story of when she received a death threat. That night she locked her door and sat home alone, terrified to her core. Finally, as she prayed about it, she gained confidence that God was with her. With that in mind, she unlocked the door and went to sleep. Nothing happened, and her fear was conquered in a way it wouldn’t have been otherwise. Now, I’m not advising that we leave our doors unlocked, but this woman needed to do so. By trusting God to keep her safe, she was able to banish her fear and find peace.
Keep the phrase “To you the night shines as bright as day” at the forefront of your mind today, and enjoy God’s presence.
Lord, make me aware of your presence throughout this day. Help me to picture you at my side, protecting me every moment. I ask that when I am fearful you’ll remind me that you have promised, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you” (Heb. 13:5, NLT). When my pulse races and I feel anxiety rising, help me to be aware that you are with me and want to care for me.