I attended a Christian college, and in the weeks following this new and unwelcome news from my father, a professor noticed my quiet demeanor and asked if all was well. I shared my concern about the possibility of losing my dad, and I will never forget how my Professor responded: “You have two choices in these moments of crisis. You can either run toward God or away from him.” My growing understanding of God’s holiness made the idea of running toward God seem somehow fearful, but in the end, I had a greater fear of the implications of running away from Him. And so, I began learning what it meant to draw near to Jesus. I immersed myself in His Word, I took long walks that included conversations with God, and I listened to music that reminded me He was near.
During the years my dad was sick, I slowly began to understand the significance of Jesus’ presence. In the months following his death, my faith deepened as I learned what it meant to draw close to God. You see, in the absence of my father, on whom I had always depended for my spiritual, physical, and even emotional needs, I learned what it meant to find refuge in my Savior who loves me better than my earthly father ever could.
Psalm 46 reminds believers that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.”
When We Run to Jesus, We Find Strength
As parents, our natural instinct is to want to fix the pain that our children face or shield them from the turmoil of the world. But God does not say that He will remove our pain, nor does He promise to keep us from difficulty (Rom. 8:17-18). It’s important that our kids understand that being a believer does not mean that our life will be easy or free from suffering. What God does promise us is His presence, and it’s in His presence that we find the strength to face whatever the Lord puts in our path.
God Himself is our strength. Do you see, believer, how incredible this is? It’s not that God helps us look within in order to conjure up the strength needed to work in a job that’s daunting or to mend a relationship that’s strained. The Psalmist reminds us that God is our strength. He is the power we need in the face of difficulties, no matter how insurmountable they may seem. And we are able to tap into that strength because God is with us; He is as close as our breath, so His strength is our strength.
The same God who is transcendent is also Immanuel, God with us. He is holy, yes, but He chooses to draw near to us through Jesus. As believers in Jesus, there is no barrier between us and God. He is with us always and forever. That means whether we’re nervous about a test or worried about a diagnosis, we are never alone. The world tells young people to look within to find their inner strength, but the problem is, we are weak in the face of sorrow and pain and confusion. We’re only human. So, Jesus says, look to me. Remind your kids that He alone is their strength and is with them always.
When We Run to Jesus, We Find Rest
The Psalmist says in the presence of God, we find refuge or shelter in the midst of life’s challenges. When I was little, I was terribly scared of storms, and on one occasion, we had a babysitter during a storm that took out our electricity. I was inconsolable, but as soon as my parents returned, I remember running up the stairs and heading straight into my dad’s arms. It didn’t matter if the storm was still hovering or if the lights were still out, my heart was at rest in the embrace of my father.
We can’t feel the physical arms of our heavenly father, but His presence is as real as the touch of a loved one by your side. Jesus says, cast your anxieties on me because I care for you (1 Peter 5:7), and that word “cast,” does not mean to lightly toss, but it means to forcefully throw your worries onto Jesus. He is with you, and He wants your burdens so that you can rest. There is not a parent, a pastor, or even a close friend who is strong enough to carry all of our anxieties, but Jesus is able.
Parents, youth pastors, your burdens may be many. Run to Jesus, and in His presence find rest for your soul. Take even just a few minutes to sit in the quiet and be reminded of God’s presence. Can you hear him singing in your midst? (Zephaniah 3:17). Oh, how He loves you, and because of that love, He will never break His promise to be with you always. God is with us when our kids are out and about and we fear for their safety, God is with us when we feel restless because we didn’t handle well a difficult conversation with our teen, and God is with us when we rejoice in the glimpses of His work.
As you experience the significance of His presence, remind your children that He is with them as well. When they mention that they are scared about catching Covid, or when they are frustrated because of a challenging friendship, or when they face what seems insurmountable, remind them to run to Jesus. It’s in His arms that we find strength, and it’s in His presence that we find rest.
As you reflect on our ever-present God, consider playing or sharing these songs with your family: