When God Stands in the Back
Welcome to the blog. I’m so glad you are here. I recently released a podcast on this same topic and it really spoke to my mom. As we are nearing Mother’s Day and we are separated in all of this Sheltering in Place COVID-19 business, as a Shout-Out to her, I wanted to make it available here, for you. Sometimes we all feel like God is standing in the back.
When God Stands in the Back
Think of the type of person who sits on the back row in a lecture, a seminar, or even church. Are they your goody-two-shoes? Your question-askers? Do they try to stay hidden, hanging with their friends, or are they cutting up under the radar? If you have been in at least one class or seminar where you can select your seat, the lines are clearly drawn. That back wall is being held up by a group of comedians waiting for the right moment to unleash their sarcastic and timely gems on the ears available.
Before you become concerned I’m going to get myself into trouble, I married a guy on the back row. A natural cut-up. Oh, he’s funny. A brilliant snarky sarcastic and handsome galoot, he is. That man could read a book and ruin the curve in between distracting commentary every time. In fact, today, we have two separate offices at home or I would never get anything done.
The problem with my perception (and maybe yours) of someone sitting in the back is that I naturally feel as if they really don’t want to be present; and that they will likely not be paying attention. Whether I realize it or not, those perceptions carry over into my understanding of God and His work in my life. I’m just wondering if it is happening in your life, too.
Sometimes we find ourselves in a place that feels very absent of the presence of God. It can feel as if He is standing at the back of the room (so to speak) or sitting on the back row, and I transfer all of my perceptions and preconceived ideas into my theology. Before I know it, a felt absence of the presence of God — will not help me find the courage to step out in faith or keep going. I will not receive the comfort needed to get through the next difficulty or hurdle. And I will not possess the confidence to believe what is unbelievable in regular circumstances.
There is an instance I want to bring to light today where God momentarily is not in the front leading. He is not hovering over and above heralding messages. He is not whispering direction or calling out to His own, nor is He working a miracle or showing Himself in any other way. Instead, he has removed Himself from those places and, in essence, is standing in the back ON PURPOSE.
There are times when that feeling that God is not present isn’t due to his lack of participation in your life, but a result of His positioning.
Charles Spurgeon assures us in this:
“The presence of God (in our lives) is not to be measured by the realization of it.”
Consider Moses and the Israelites as they have just escaped Egypt. As they are moving out, we are told they went the long way with the Angel of the Lord going before them.
And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people. Exodus 13:21-22
For the first time, these people experienced the presence of God in their midst. The God of the universe was leading them, going out before them. They could see the cloud and the fire. Sweet sleep. No worries. So much so these slaves left boldly equipped for battle. Confident.
But in a fat minute –Pharaoh and his cronies had second thoughts about losing their free labor and began moving in on the fugitives. The people quickly lost confidence and begin to cry out to the LORD. Then they became a little testy with Moses out of their fear saying things like – “What?! Were there not enough graves in Egypt? Didn’t we tell you it was better for us to stay there?”
Moses tells them not to be afraid but to stand still and wait for the Lord, assuring them that God will fight for them.
In response, God says to Moses, “What are you standing around waiting on Me for, go forward” even though there is no “forward” place by which to advance. They are kind of on the edge of disaster. Moses is instructed to stretch out his staff over the water so the people will be able to walk across it and God informs Moses what He’s about to do to the bad guys. In these short verses, God has announced His plans and given the people instructions in how to move ahead.
This next part where you and I often begin to drift.
Then the angel of God who was going before the host of Israel moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them, coming between the host of Egypt and the host of Israel. And there was the cloud and the darkness. And it lit up the night without one coming near the other all night. Exodus 14:19-20
There are 4 things you and I should remember when God stands in the back that can stir our faith.
When God Stands in the Back, Remember God Moves
This is the most disconcerting of all the realities for me. God moves. And He doesn’t need permission or understanding. He doesn’t even need to make an announcement. Not that we don’t know this reality, but we generally like Him to act like the song, “Jesus, Take the Wheel.”
I expect Him to be in the front, ahead, leading, lighting the way, keeping us on the path until I get to the finish line, victoriously and without sweating too much or having much difficulty.
I recently saw a meme of this same concept,“Jesus, Take the wheel” but instead of taking hold of the steering wheel, Jesus made off with the back left TIRE, making the car undrivable. The caption read, “Don’t take THAT wheel, Jesus!”
That’s kind of how life can feel at times. In fact, I connected with a friend a couple of weeks ago only to find this past year had been the worst year of her life. It seemed as if Jesus had taken all of her wheels AND the spare.
This is a very sobering and Biblical principle. There are times when God moves. HE DOES NOT LEAVE, but He moves, causing us to feel a loss of His presence, a hopelessness which ushers in a struggle to believe. Unlikely as it may seem, this movement creates a perfect environment for faith to grow. Terribly uncomfortable, this movement often occurs in the midst of a dark, gloomy, space–much like a pandemic.
When God Stands in the Back, Remember, God Moves for all the Right Reasons
It can happen. God can move. And it can happen for all the right reasons. God moving to the back in this situation is not a result of your sin or my sin. It’s not because you are underperforming, Sister. Get that one straight. God Moves for all the Right Reasons. You and I need to know this.
The loss you feel,
The emptiness–like He is not there
This sense that He cares about other people MORE than you —
That if you were just different – then things would work out for you, too.
Then why in thunderation does He ask us to do difficult things and then disappear?
Why does He call us to endeavors that are flooded with impasses?
What is the point in making us jump through hoops to no avail? Or so it seems?
When is tragic loss ever a good idea?
Probably the most profound sentences I read this week reminded of the answer to these typical questions:
Solomon spake many proverbs, and wrote many songs; but none of them attained the glory of that saying, –“Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” Here was a triumph of faith! Beloved, you and I lose the enjoyments of religion and the comforts of hope in order that we may walk by faith and not by sight and may the more greatly glorify God.” C. Spurgeon
In other words, we can get to a hopeless place, feeling like, “what’s the point?” “losing all enjoyments of religion” by God’s design for the purpose of strengthening our faith, NOT TO DESTROY IT. It is not His intention for us to crash, burn, blaze and turn away, but that our faith be kindled, stirred, to a red hot boil in way that it could not have glorified God before.
When God Stands in the Back, He is Not Distracted but Planted
When God does move from leading to the back, He is not distracted. He is completely 110% paying attention to you. He is not twitchy or distant but unreservedly planted. We know this from the language where the Bible shows us that when the Angel moved, he “stood.” His feet were firmly planted for your good. He’s not floating around willy-nilly half-listening, waiting for something interesting to do. He is not playing a GameBoy until the trouble passes, but securely standing in between you and whatever is coming against you out to harm, destroy, or thwart His plans for your life. When you cannot feel His presence it is so easy to reject this truth. Remember, You are a big deal to Him.
When God Stands in the Back, He is Doing Double-Duty
We find God actually busy working in this passage, doing two things at once from this position. Before, He was leading. But presently, He is both a cloud and a fire. He has become a barrier between what needs to be fought against to keep the badness away from his children that has no permission to come near –putting a hedge of protection around as well as a source of light in the darkness.
It doesn’t take much light to make a difference in a dark place. Our problem is that we get so discouraged, so tired, so buried in our pain and suffering wondering, “Why, if this is T The Way, are having to endure this yuckiness,” that we miss the light placed for us in the darkness.
Guilty as charged. That’s me.
What shall we do? Look for it, my friend. Trust it’s going to be there. It may be small, like a night light. Just remember. Your God is pulling double duty when you cannot feel His presence. He has positioned Himself in the rear, to stand in the back because:
It is for your protection-
For your strengthening –
And for your good.
He is not gone. He has just moved to cover your back.
When God Stands in the Back, Keep Moving
When God stands in the back, He means for you to keep moving out. No. There was no visible path ahead when we left Moses and the Israelites at the edge of disaster. They had been given instructions and were told to move forward. Nothing changed just because God moved. This is where faith is strengthened.
Friend, are you staring at the edge of the water NOT doing what you thought He called you to do because I don’t know– a million different reasons for how it’s not working out? And it feels like its’ just stupid and He’s not here?
Could it be your God has been here all along?
Your God is still present. He means for you to go on with what He’s told you to do.
Oh, how I pray His Word speaks over you today. I pray the Lord moves you to a deeper faith, to believe Him more, and to go and do what He’s called you to go and do in the midst of impossibilities, pandemics, and disappointments. I pray the same for myself.
May these verses rush over us and leave us different in the coming days with a greater understanding and a stronger faith.
For His Glory,