The Comfort of God’s Presence
by Paul David Tripp
It was a beautiful, comforting picture of faithful love. I didn’t ask her to do it; I didn’t know she would offer to do it. It was much more of a wonderful portrait of her heart than it was of my need. She did it because of what was in her, not because of what she had gotten for me. In those first scary and torturous days in the hospital, my wife Luella never left my side. It wasn’t just that she was there during normal visiting hours to talk with doctors and to greet the visitors whom I was unable to greet. She slept next to me in an uncomfortable recliner every night. When the spasms returned, the pain intensified, or the nurse awakened me for medication, Luella was with me. In the morning when I awoke to face a day I really didn’t want to face, Luella was right there with me. When tears came, she was there to comfort. When I got discouraged, she was quick to encourage.
I was comforted by more than words. I was comforted by her presence and what her presence said about her love for me. She had put her world on hold for my sake. I have thought many times since that Luella’s faithful, attentive presence in the darkest of days and the weakest of moments is a beautiful picture of the faithful presence of another. God is the ultimate present one. He has invaded my life by his grace. He is with me, for me, and in me. The hope I have is more than a theological system or wisdom principles for everyday life. My hope rests on the willing, faithful, powerful, and loving presence of God with me. It is the ultimate gift of gifts to everyone who walks the harsh and bumpy road between birth and eternity. God has given us no sweeter, more beautiful gift than the gift of himself. He is the gift that changes everything. His presence is what every sufferer needs, whether they know it or not.
I love how David begins Psalm 27, a psalm that was written during dark days in his life. It is a psalm of trouble, but it doesn’t begin with trouble; it begins with wonderful, mind-expanding, heart-engaging, life-changing theology. And there’s a lesson in this. It is never more important than in times of suffering to hold onto and remember the theology of the Word of God. When you are suffering, it is vital that you preach regularly to yourself the truths that Scripture declares. It is vital that your thinking, feeling, interpreting, and craving heart is given the wisdom, guidance, and comfort that only the theology of the Word of God can give. Bad theology will complicate and worsen your suffering. Bad theology will crush your hope when it needs to be bolstered. Bad theology will weaken your faith when it needs to be strengthened. Bad theology will leave your heart wondering and wandering, when it needs to be rooted and at peace. I would ask you, when suffering enters your door, where does your heart run? What do you fill your mind with?
Let me look at the first verse of Psalm 27 with you:
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
Notice the theology presented in this verse. David’s hope as he faces the unthinkable, is not an abstract, distant, or impersonal set of ideas. The theology that he preaches to himself in this psalm rests its entire hope on the presence and grace of a person. To leave out the “my” and shorten his declaration to simply, “The Lord is light,” would take away the personal power and majesty from the theological declaration. In fact, look anywhere in Scripture and you’ll see that the theology of the Word of God is never presented in an academic, impersonal, abstract way. The epicenter of the Bible’s theology is the story of God coming to dwell with his people and unleashing his glory for their good.
Here David celebrates the only place he can find hope—in the presence of the Lord. To be David’s light, salvation, and stronghold, the Lord must be near. In the pain of unthinkable things David says, “God, it’s your presence that lights my way, it’s your presence that gives me hope that I will be delivered from evil, and it’s your presence that provides refuge for me when it seems that there is nowhere to run.” When we are facing hardship, it is vital that we preach to ourselves the theology of the presence of the Lord. That theology doesn’t just define the nature of God’s commitment to us; it also defines who we are as children of God. Psalm 27:1 defines David’s identity more clearly and accurately than any circumstance or relationship ever could. We were wired to get our identity vertically, because the things we look to horizontally will never deliver to us the security of identity that we find in the presence and grace of God.
Our hope is not found in understanding why God allowed suffering into our lives. Our hope is not found in the belief that somehow we will tough our way through. Our hope is not found in doctors, lawyers, pastors, family, or friends. Our hope is not found in our resilience or ingenuity. Our hope is not found in ideas or things. Though we may look to all those for temporary help, ultimately our hope rests in the faithful and gracious presence of the Lord with us.
Content taken from Suffering: Gospel Hope When Life Doesn’t Make Sense by Paul David Tripp, ©2018. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Il 60187, www.crossway.org.
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