Does God really care?

Whenever one finds oneself in a hopeless situation, and God seems slow to intervene, one may be tempted to think that God does not listen and that God does not care.  King David knew that feeling all too well, as we see in many of his Psalms.  But Psalm 8 is different.

Picture David in the wilderness, helpless and hopeless. Perhaps he was fleeing from the jealous king Saul who wanted to protect his throne from this young, valiant warrior.  Or perhaps he was fleeing from his own son Absalom who hoped to position himself on David’s throne.  Some of David’s most beautiful songs were written during these two periods as he passionately petitioned God for preservation and restoration to his place among God’s people.

Picture David praying to God with familiar phrases like “Save me from the hands of my enemies”, “how long, Lord…?”, and “have you forgotten me…?”  He wants to know if God is mindful of him, and if God cares about him at all.

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Then, suddenly he finds his prayers stilled as he is mesmerized by the clear desert nightlight, awestruck at the sheer size and serenity of the stars. He erupts in worship to the Creator of such a magnificent scene.  “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!  You have set your glory in the heavens!”  And now David prays differently.

The awareness of the beauty and bigness of these star-studded heavens makes David feel small, insignificant.  The stars seem constant, flawless, glorious. Yet David sees himself fragile, fallible, as fickle as dessert grass (Psalm 103:15). Psalm 8

3  When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,

4  what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?

 

The stars are glorious, I am dust.  Why would God even think about me, moreover care for me?
But as David reflects on the creation account (Gen 1-2), and recalls that although God had made the heavens to show his glory, mankind enjoys a privileged position in God’s heart, and therefore in His creation order. After all, only mankind was created in His image, just “a little lower” than the angels (Hebrew Elohim, a name for God the mighty Creator), and to receive authority to rule the earth. Psalm 8

5  Yet you have made him a little lower than the angels [Heb: Elohim] and crowned him with glory and honour.

6  You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet…

 Genesis 1:26,28  Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion…”

God had chosen mankind to bear his glory, and to share in his rule.  That’s why David confidently declares that even the smallest “babies and nursing infants” (verse 2) reflects the greatest glory of God, and would silence those who declare there is no God.

So David’s questions “God, are you mindful of me” and “God, do you care about me?” are satisfied in God’s creation and intent for mankind: yes, David, the Great Creator are mindful of you, and does care for you!  He has made you like Himself to relate to you, and has shared his glory and his authority with you.  Your fickleness and frailty does not change God’s attention on or affections towards you! You are created for His pleasure!

Looking to this prayer of David, 3000 years ago in the wilderness, New Testament believers have a special reading on it through the shadow of the cross.  The questions “is God mindful of me?” and “does God care about me?” are answered affirmatively in the birth of Jesus Christ, who came to reveal the love of God. In his coming, this baby silenced the great Enemy and Avenger once for all.  God’s loving concern and care is known in the incarnation and vicarious suffering of Jesus Christ our Lord. “In this the love of God is demonstrated for you…!” (Romans 5:18)

The next time you wonder whether God cares for you, gaze at the stars and remember that you are so much more glorious than that!

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Growing intimately

By Joanne Eksteen.

Intimacy is a gift from God to be enjoyed and to connect two people that have entered into the covenant of marriage. What does it mean then to connect intimately and why do so many of us miss this incredible gift?

To connect means to be completely vulnerable and open in the giving of oneself physically, emotionally and spiritually. For most this is difficult.  Often, when I put this thought to people, they report uncertainty regarding whether they can trust the other person to receive what they give in an accepting and graceful manner.

While this is important, it is really not about the other person. It is about that thing you think you need to trust the other person with. Do you accept that thing you think you need acceptance of? Do you believe that although you are not perfect, that God thinks of you as worthy? Whether you can trust the other person is really irrelevant. If what you give is not received in trust and acceptance – will you still be whole?

When you get to a place where you accept yourself and see yourself as God sees you, you are able to release the fear of being rejected. You no longer need to trust someone else. You can trust yourself. Shame is no longer an issue.

Only once we can give freely and without reservation, that which we consider worthy, are we open to receive. In turn your sense of self-worth will most likely be reinforced as you are able to receive and accept love in return. From this vantage point the view is spectacular!

Perhaps I can simplify this further? We all have a ‘sense of self’- the summation of an image we hold of ourselves. It is what we think of ourselves consciously and unconsciously. I was ‘top’ of my Maths class in High School. After a particularly hard test (or at least that was my perception), I walked out of the class huffing and puffing. My teacher asked me how it went and I replied: “terrible”.

She reflected: “…it is because you always focus on that which you think you got wrong and not on the 99 others that you got right…”. In life I have often struggled with this. Why is it that we are so afraid to let others see that 1 percent that is ‘wrong’, not perfect or bad?

I later realised that I needed to control everything to be ‘perfect’ in order to not let others see my shadowy or negative parts.  The reality is that we all have shady parts. The Bible tells us that we’re born in sin.

We also all have good parts I believe. In a real intimate relationship we need to be honest and vulnerable to the extent that you allow your partner into those shadowy parts. Only when we can give freely can we freely receive (the love and acceptance that should be returned). As partners we should be sensitive to our spouses’ vulnerability and never use it to hurt them. We should carefully choose the words we use to receive their vulnerability and care for them in that moment. And then…it’s your turn!

One of the largest barriers to intimacy is what I have described here i.e. poor self-acceptance, low self-esteem or shame. It feeds many of the other barriers that we often hear about. Take pornography for example. I believe porn to be an addiction and habit once it starts (an entire different story for another day) but how does it start? Porn starts when one tries to sooth the longing for intimacy but one is fearful of engaging in real intimacy as it would mean entering and sharing the shadowy waters of yourself. Instead porn in easily accessed and controlled (at least the first couple of times) and doesn’t ask any questions. It is not hard, takes little emotional effort, can’t reject you and you don’t need to fear it or trust it. You also don’t have to return the favour. Despite this, it doesn’t fulfill one’s real need and forces one to return time and time again.

Consider the barriers you experience to intimacy. Can you relate it to anything I have said above?

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Joanne Eskteen is wife, a mother and a clinical psychologist with a passion for identity and relational therapy.