God’s Absolute Promise

In his book, Things Hidden, author Richard Rohr states that “The only absolute this God every promised Israel was God’s presence itself.”  Time and again, we find this promise being made throughout the scriptures to those who belong to God.  It is made to Jacob in his dream at Bethel (Genesis 28:15); it is made to Moses when God sends him to Pharaoh to demand that Pharaoh free the children of Israel from their Egyptian bondage (Exodus 3:12); it is made to the children of Israel through the prophet Isaiah regarding the challenges and the troubles they will face (Isaiah 43:2); it is made to the disciples through Christ Jesus when they are being sent into the world to make disciples of all humanity (Matthew 28:20).  To my way of thinking, God is consistently and constantly assuring and reassuring us of his abiding presence with us.

While thinking about this absolute promise, I found myself wondering not so much about whether or not God keeps that promise but rather about if God’s presence and His presence alone is enough.  If I am under the impression that God’s presence means that our lives will be filled with blessedness and bliss, then God’s presence alone may not be enough.  If I am under the impression that God’s presence will bring us only good things and things that make us happy in this life, then God’s presence alone may not be enough.  If I am under the impression that God’s presence will effectively protect me from all hurt, harm and danger in this life then God’s presence alone just may not be enough.

There are relationships that are based more on what we can get from the person with whom we are in the relationship then on who that person is.  I have found those kind of relationships to be more inauthentic than they are authentic; that they can sink to the level of being offensive because one is being used for the others personal gain or satisfaction.  It seems to me that authentic relationships have more to do with who the person is in the relationship than what they may have.  And my relationship with God should be the most authentic relationship that I have and therefore more about who God is than what I may or may not get from God.

In his letter to the church at Philippi, Paul writes, “…I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” (Philippians 4:11)  Let me remind us that these are the words of the same man who gives a list of the troubles and trails, pains and sufferings he has endured during the course of his life and ministry (2 Corinthians 11:23-27).  It is obvious that Paul’s contentment had nothing at all to do with his life being trouble-free and without suffering and pain.  I believe at the heart of the contentment Paul experience was the presence of God though Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit in his life.  I am learning that to know I am not alone and that God is with me when life becomes unbearable is to know that life is bearable; that to know that I am not alone and that God is with me when life’s hurts, harms and dangers come my way is to know that I have been equipped by God to handle whatever the hurts, harms and dangers may be; that to know that I am not alone and that God is with me when the storms of life are ragging is to know a kind of peace that is beyond comprehension despite the raggings of the storm.

Is it enough for us to know that the only absolute God ever promises us is the promise of His presence with us?  I am learning day by day that it is indeed enough because day by day, I am learning more about who God is than I am learning about what God does.

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