“Where can I go from Your Spirit. Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol,behold, You are there (Psalm 139:7,8).”
During the months (coming up on five), I have been ill, about the only thing constructive, apart from praying, I’ve been able to do is, read. I found a new joy in reading and studying the Bible, as well as other things. One of the books that has been a special blessing is St Augustine’s CONFESSIONS. Augustine, born in North Africa in 354 AD,is considered by most scholars to be the greatest theologian since the apostle Paul. He was the Bishop of Hippo from 396 till his death in 430.
What is distinctive about THE CONFESSIONS is that he records his efforts to explain to himself the significance of his conversion to Christ, and to do so in terms that would persuade others this was the one true faith. It is his fierce self-analysis and emotional intensity that has given this work its lasting appeal.
In Part 4 of Book One, these words captured my attention: “You are the most hidden from us and yet the most present amongst us.” Present yet Hidden: What an apt description of our God. At least it was in my present situation. I knew that God was present, because they Bible said so and my own experience echoed it. When my trouble started and they were talking about cancer, God gave my wife, Kaye, a promise from Psalm 91:14-16: “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. WITH LONG LIFE WILL I SATISFY HIM and show him my salvation.”
We both accepted this as a promise from God. I have to admit, though, one night when I was at my worst and weakest, I faltered. My brother was
going to stay with me that night so Kaye could get a good night’s rest (I had been in the hospital three weeks; our daughter was in ICU in another hospital across town following a car wreck that might possibly mean the loss of her foot. So Kaye was going between two hospitals and was exhausted), but I knew I was going to die during the night and I asked her to stay with me or I would never see her face again. She agreed and came to my bed and whispered God’s promise to us again. I nodded my head halfheartedly. But within an hour the peace of God had so moved upon my heart, that I knew I would not die. He was present but hidden.
For an evangelist to cancel five months of meetings with no other income was a scary thing. But God gave us assurance that He would meet every need. We could not begin to see how He would do this. But once again, while He was hidden, He was present, and to this day continues to meet every need through ravens sent by many means that I would have believed impossible before.
When they moved me to a new floor after three weeks, I was so weak I could hardly lift my head. I no longer doubted that I would live, but would that life be as an invalid? Would I ever be what I had been before? Of course, when you have visitors (in spite of the No Visitors sign) who walk in and the first words they say are, “My husband died in this room,” it really helps the old spirit. I had two main nurses, both from India, and whom I assumed were Hindu. But my first day there they let me know without a doubt that they were Christians. The care they gave me was above and beyond their call. When I would mention this, they would smile and say, “It is an honor for us to serve a Man of God.” Hidden but present. I had one of the books I had written with me and when they saw it, they asked for a copy. I don’t know how many copies I finally gave away, but it was a great blessing for other workers on the floor who came asking for a book. God was present.
When I was sent home after six weeks, I was still so weak, I fell trying to walk up one step. I admit there were times when I despaired of ever walking on my own again. It been three months since I’d had a haircut, so Kaye called someone who would come to the house. We didn’t know her at all, but as she cut my hair, she began to tell of her conversion experience, and before she left, she asked if she could pray for us. God was present.
What I want to say is there are many times and situations in which it looks as though God has abandoned us, or at least, misplaced us. We have probably all felt this way. But even though God may be visibly hidden from us, we must remember that He is always present.