Few things frighten us more than the feeling of abandonment. It’s worse than mere loneliness. It implies rejection, resulting in greater vulnerability. Think of it. A child abandoned by his parents. A wife abandoned by her husband. To be lonely is sad. To be abandoned is personal. It is the feeling of nothingness, worthlessness, utter emptiness.
That’s why I take heart in noticing that the Bible doesn’t only assure us of God’s presence, but also where and how God is present with us.
In the first chapter of Joshua we read the charge God gave to Joshua as he prepared to assume the mantle of leadership of Israel after Moses’ death. We are given a pretty clear sense that Joshua was anxious about this new role. And there were plenty of things to be anxious about.
First, Joshua followed in the footsteps of Moses. Moses had big shoes to fill. Moses had led Israel for 40 years. God used Moses to perform marvelous miracles bringing Israel out of Egypt and through the Red Sea. God gave the law through Moses, and under Moses’ leadership Israel was sustained in the wilderness. And who had a relationship with God like Moses?
Exodus 33:11 tells us that God would “speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend.”
Second, Joshua had a daunting responsibility ahead of him. He was charged with leading Israel’s conquest of Canaan. Here they were to “drive out nations greater and mightier than Israel, with cities fortified to heaven” (Deuteronomy 9:1). An earlier scouting team sent to spy out Canaan came back with 8 out of 10 declaring certain defeat if Israel tried to take possession of the land saying, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us.” (Numbers 13:25-33).
But this was the task given to Joshua. What if he wasn’t as worthy as Moses? What if he wasn’t capable enough to lead the army of Israel to victory? What if he failed? God knew what Joshua needed to hear. God promised Joshua that He would be with him. But He promised something more. He said, “I will be with you. I will not fail you. I will not forsake you. I will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:5, 9).
Read again Psalm 46:1. Where did the Psalmist say “the very present of help of God” is found? How about Psalm 139:7-10? Where did David say he could go to flee the presence of God? What does Romans 5:3-8 tell us about how bad things can get before God will bail on us? Reflect on those verses. And when you do you will be given an even deeper understanding of how much we matter to God, and of Jesus’ promise in Matthew 28:20: “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Prayer: Heavenly Father, seeing you will never abandon me, teach me how to be more fully present with you.