Psalm 139 can trigger contradictory feelings depending on mood, atmosphere, and circumstances. A God of constant surveillance can be unnerving, especially since we all have moments when we’re not proud of how we look or what we’re doing. I can think of such episodes in my own life. The older I get, though, the more comfortable I am with the idea of accompaniment, that we have a “companion” God. The passing of time helps, because life teaches us rather emphatically that there are no guarantees; no bulletproof vests to protect us from illness, job loss, romantic heartbreak, poverty, political oppression or, ultimately, death. Yet, the reality that God doesn’t “protect” us doesn’t mean God abandons us.
Two years ago, I had an extremely eventful medical year for the first time in my life: a cancer diagnosis despite no symptoms, three surgeries, a blood clot, and a toxic reaction to chemotherapy that hospitalized me twice for a total of seven days and included more than two dozen units of intravenous potassium. As much as I might have wanted to rewrite history and remove my new status of “cancer survivor,” God did not intervene to prevent any of that. However, I never doubted that God accompanied me through it. Did I see God? Not in any dramatic beatific vision, no. I did see nurses and doctors practicing their medicine on me; neighbors offering to take walks with me; colleagues bringing hard candy on days I couldn’t eat; family, friends, and congregation members sending e-mails, paying visits, preparing meals, and sending cards. The God of the psalmist who is “acquainted with all my ways” is not a God of bulletproof vests but rather the God who walks beside us in shoes that we and our neighbors wear each day. The God who assures me and you that when we “come to the end—I am still with you.”
God, thank you for accompanying us, now and forever. Amen.
The call of Samuel and the intimate language of the psalmist this week reflect God’s knowledge of and care for each individual. God sees each one of us, no matter where we are in life and no matter how far we might feel from God. Paul seeks to encourage the Corinthians with this same truth. Believers may be afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, beaten down, even killed; but they are never defeated. The power of a personal God flows through them, even if this is not evident to the eyes of the world. We likewise should be personally caring toward those around us. Jesus models this in Mark, demonstrating that showing mercy is more important than following even religious regulations, for mercy is the heart of God.
• Read 1 Samuel 3:1-20. When has a young person in your life or that of someone you know had to face the devastating consequences of a single bad decision? How did that affect your actions and behaviors?
• Read Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18. When have you experienced that life has no guarantees? How did you sense God’s presence in that time?
• Read 2 Corinthians 4:5-12. How do you attempt to be open to seeing Christ in everyone you meet?
• Read Mark 2:23–3:6. When do you, like Jesus, try to be proximate to persons in need? How has that changed your life?
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