Legend has it that as the Titanic was sinking into the North Atlantic on its fateful maiden voyage, some survivor’s reported that the ship’s string quartet was playing the old hymn, “Nearer, My God to Thee.”
The quartet got it right. In times of crisis, what matters most is the nearness of God and our awareness of that nearness! When Jesus entered into those final hours of his earthly existence, it wasn’t just Peter who denied him – all the disciples fled in fear and terror (Mark 14:40). But there, near to the heart of Jesus on the cross, stood Jesus’ mother and three other women (John 19:25). Proximity is a treasured gift in moments of crisis and aloneness. Some of the most tragic stories of our COVID world are the stories of people dying alone. I love the account of a nurse who said to those losing loved ones, “When you can’t be there to hold their hands in their final moments, know that we are there in your place.” Of course, a nurse would understand that wonder of presence!
When King David was facing battles with Saul, who, in moments of mental illness, repeatedly tried to kill David, he asked who would go with him. Abishai raised his hand and said, “I’ll go with you, David.” (1 Samuel 26:6) There is just something so powerful about not facing a battle alone. Knowing someone is with us and for us creates courage and resolve within us.
Jesus embraced the horror of the cross – including separation from the Father – for us so that we would never have to face life apart from God. He was beaten, mocked and spat upon so that we would never have to question whether or not God is with us. The hypocritical mockery of the religious leaders telling Pilate that “we have no king but Caesar” only adds to the devastation of the event.
A companion hymn to “Nearer, My God to Thee” would be “There is a Place of Quiet Rest.”
There is a place of quiet rest, near to the heart of God. A place where sin cannot molest, near to the heart of God. O Jesus blessed Redeemer, sent from the heart of God, hold us who wait before thee, near to the heart of God.
May we seek the quiet rest of living life near to the heart of God. It is simply the best place to navigate the journey of life with all its complexities.
Lead Pastor of Foothills and one who is deeply grateful for “the nearness of God.”