We are a fickle people.
At least, I know that I am.
There have been seasons in my life that I have found my soul shattered; seemingly beyond repair—literally—and incredibly desperate for God to make His presence known in the deep darkness. And, in those moments of grief and despair, there were times that I felt His nearness in a very real and palpable way—and then there were also times in which it felt that He was far, far away.
But, even in those times where I could not sense Him, per se, I can look back now and see unmistakably that He was near—working, protecting, teaching, comforting–actively conveying and working all of the things that my destroyed soul longed for to its very depths.
Oh, how I have lived the words of the old Hymn: I Need Thee Every Hour, often.
Amen and amen.
Yet, there is also a sense in which I am very quick to forget that need—that constant, minute-by-minute need—of God.
You see, dear reader, I am so very very quick to embrace the words of the second verse of that beautiful hymn—selectively.
The second verse starts out like this:
I need thee every hour, in joy or pain….
Come quickly and abide, or life is in vain.
I’ve run to this “prayer” so many times in the last 10 years or so—pleading the words on my knees before God my Father as I struggled to push through another day and fight back the fear and the darkness and the anxiety of whatever circumstances were rendering my soul in two.
It is sadly something that I do not pray often, when all is well.
I tend to neglect this prayer, when my heart is good and whole and awash with hope. I forget to pray it, when I see my kids doing well, or when I sense God’s grace deeply and continually, or when I see that He is answering deep-rooted long-prayed prayers.
I only tend to run to these words, in the “pain” part of the “joy or pain” phrase of verse two.
Tonight, though, I am wondering if I need Him even deeper, when life is good.
I’m a stubborn, independent fool. Always have been. Rebelliously so. I’m very quick to return to my default, sinful belief that I need no one–let alone God–in my life. And, when things are humming right alone and life is dandy–well–I’m even quicker to stand on my own two feet and brazenly say, “I’ve got this.”
My mind was there, just last night.
I was sitting on my deck, taking stock of life. My kids are doing well. Sure, they have hit some bumps in their quest to grow up and learn what it means to be a young adult–as we all have–but overall, they astonish me with how well they are doing. My oldest is going back to school. My boy who is in the Navy is holding his own. My boy who just graduated, has enrolled in college, landed a great job two months ago, and already has been promoted to manager. And my baby is eagerly looking forward to her senior year, during which she will be an intern at our church in the worship ministry–and after which she will attend school at Southeastern Seminary.
Work is exhausting, but is going well—I’m looking forward to some very exciting things in the future, in terms of career development. I love my job.
And, I am dating someone who is so kind, and fun, and who cherishes me and treats me with incredible respect and honor. And he cares for my crew, too–never trying to be “dad”, but always quick to listen, and encourage and support all of us on so many levels. Never did I think I would fall in love again; yet here I am.
Life is good.
And there is much happiness.
And, intense joy.
It’s a strange place to be, honestly. For so long, life was so hard. So very hard. Bewilderingly difficult. And in those long dark days, months, years—I desperately needed God every hour. Every minute. He was my only hope. I clung to Him and to scripture about who He is with a death grip–literally, because I truly felt I would die, without His intervention.
So to find myself today, in this incredibly joyful place, is–honestly–a bit disorienting in and of itself.
It is foreign, to some degree.
Oh my soul, I am so deeply grateful. But in some ways it is very odd.
I’m not so naive as to think that everything will be sunshine and roses for the rest of my residence here in this world. I know enough of life to know that is not the case. Life is hard. Unpredictable. Unstable. Tomorrow, all could be turned upside down all over again. And, I could find myself in that desperate place of crying out to God for His intervention and mercy and gracy once again.
But here’s the thing….
As I sat on my deck the other night, contemplating all of this, the words of that old hymn kept coming back to me:
I need thee every hour, in Joy or in Pain…
And I stopped still for a second and looked at the sky and thought hard: I need Him in joy.
Why have I never taken note of that part of this hymn??
In fact, what if I need Him even more, in the joyful times, then in the times of grief–because it is in the joyful times that I am more apt to forget just how deeply I need Him. What if I need Him more in when all is well, to gently (or not so gently) prod me to not stand independently apart from Him, and think that “I’ve got this. I’m doing well now. I am standing fast on my own two feet, and I’ve got everything under control.”
Foolish and dangerous thinking.
In the joyful times, I am more prone to neglect to pursue Him with all of my heart, soul, and mind. In the joyful times, I am quicker to rely on my own skill set to navigate the challenges of each day, rather than depend fully upon Him. In the joyful times, I am quick to pat myself on the back for doing such a great job, rather than glorifying Him for His mercy upon my life and His working in my soul. In the joyful times, I am more apt to neglect the direction found in 1 Timothy 4:16 to be careful of my life and my doctrine (teaching), and rather than standing steadfast in the spiritual disciplines that I know help to keep my soul and mind well.
And when I go down the routes listed above, disaster is right around the corner.
And, worse yet, there are times in which I think that I’m doing a pretty good job as a Christ-follower.
Ugh. A thousand times, ugh.
I think Charles Spurgeon said it best, in these words:
It is easier to save us from our sins, than from our righteousness.
So, maybe I need Him just as much, if not more, when life is good.
Apart from Him, my life is in vain.
All these beautiful things that He has provided in my life–how well my crew is doing, my job that I love, a dating relationship that is beautiful and joy-producing, this sense of happiness that I’ve not felt in so very long–all of it is vain, without my God and His presence in my life.
I need thee every hour, in Joy or Pain. Come quickly and abide, or life is in vain.
God, please give me the deep realization that without You, life is in vain. And that without You, even good things are empty. You, and You alone, are the author of my days–in good times and in dark times. You are sovereign. And I need You every single hour of every single day.
I Need Thee Every Hour
Seaford Baptist Church ~ April 2017