In “The Peace of Wild Things” Wendell Berry wrote,
“When despair for the world grows in me / and I wake in the night at the least sound / in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be . . .”
As a fellow worrier I can identify with Berry. Like many people, I want comfort, so I avoid things that feel out of my control. Sometimes, trying to create a feeling of safety and control causes me to be over-anxious. I worry about stuff in my house before I leave for the day. I check the stove-knobs three or four times. I check the iron and my wife’s hair dryer. I check the windows and locks. I check the water faucets. I check the coffee maker. Then, if I don’t leave quick enough, I’ll do it all again a minute later.
This tendency to seek comfort and control translated into the way I sought God’s presence in my life. As soon as I became a Christian, I began to have doubts about the many things I couldn’t see or feel. As a result, I always suspected that God was far from me. How could He tolerate my sin and doubts for so long, and why didn’t He take them away? I desperately needed assurance of His presence, but I couldn’t check for God’s presence like I could check the stove or faucets.
The poem I mentioned above has a helpful line that reads:
“And I feel above me the day-blind stars / waiting with their light.”
The phrase, “day-blind stars” is especially meaningful to me. When the sun is out most stars are not visible. But they are still there. The poem’s speaker finds great solace in this image, which I believe is referencing the abiding presence of God.
God’s abiding presence in our lives, regardless of how we feel, can never be diminished because it doesn’t rest on our efforts, but on the finished work of Jesus Christ. His love and promise to be with us always is rooted in grace, fixed forever in the cross and resurrection. Furthermore, to “walk by faith” sometimes includes trusting in God though we do not feel his nearness to us as much as we would like.
Imagine how the familiar figures before us must have felt: Abraham with his son on the mountain; Joseph betrayed and sold into slavery; David hiding in the caves; Naomi grieving the loss of her family, and most of all, the disciples seeing Jesus led away to his death. Feelings of God’s abandonment would certainly be understandable, but also far from true.
He is always in your life each day, at all times, just like the stars in the sky.
The life, death, resurrection, and loving promise of Christ to always be with us is so firmly fixed outside of our influence—good works or bad–that we should take great comfort, not in our feelings or ability to experience the truth, but in the truth itself; which is never changing.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me . . . Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:4a, 6).
Poem excerpts taken from:
Wendell Berry, “The Peace of Wild Things” from The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry.
Link to full poem: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/171140