Several years ago a friend of mine volunteered with the local AWANA program. His job was to listen as various students recited Bible verses they had memorized the previous week. He made sure the memorization was correct, but always went a step further. By asking each child what they thought the verse was saying, he discovered what the verse meant to them. He didn’t want them to simply commit a string of words to memory; he wanted to be sure they knew what God was telling them from His Word.
The verse for one particular week dealt with God’s promise to watch over those who love Him no matter where they are and regardless of what is happening. The student didn’t have a ready explanation for its meaning so he reminded her that this was a promise of God’s continual presence. “God is always with us,” he said. “He’s there when you wake up, throughout the day and even when you go to sleep at night.” Noticing that this caused some concern, he asked “How does this make you feel?” Expecting a totally different response, he was surprised when after a slight hesitation, she replied, “That I’d like a little more privacy!”
We might chuckle at her honesty, but I wonder if we’ve ever had similar feelings. It’s easy to seek God’s presence when things aren’t going well. In fact, without the assurance that God is with us, we don’t know how we would survive. In The Living Bible, 1 Peter 5:7 is a wonderful comfort as it encourages us to “let him have all your worries and cares, for he is always thinking about you and watching everything that concerns you.” But what about those times when we are going our own way and everything is just fine? Or times when our ways aren’t His ways? Maybe a little more privacy doesn’t seem so bad after all.
In the Old Testament, God’s people had the same dilemma. Walking in obedience to God’s ways was a crazy rollercoaster ride for them. When everything was going well and they were satisfied and content, they saw no need for God. Private space was just fine and the more they had the better. But their plans and actions got them only so far and then God, in His great wisdom, used surrounding nations to take all the amusement out of the ride. When they hit bottom, the people anxiously turned to God and He raised up a judge or prophet to lead them. Allowing God back into their lives usually worked until that godly leader died and they hungered after their private space again. This “our turn, God’s turn” arrangement finally got so bad that at the end of the book of Judges it tells us that “everyone did what was right in his own eyes”—and that “right” was “wrong”.
I’d like to think that we’re not like the Children of Israel, but I’m not so sure. We may not actually tell God to back out of our space, but I think there are times when we certainly act as if we can do things without Him. How it must grieve Him when we hang out our “Privacy” signs. As believers we know God is always with us, but there are times when He allows us the privacy we demand. Living as if we don’t need God in our lives should be a very frightening thing. His constant presence is a blessing, not an irritation. It’s not “our turn, God’s turn”—it has to be His all the time.