Christine Stride is Executive Assistant to the Baptist National Leader and works at the Baptist National Support Centre in Auckland. She is part of Titirangi Baptist Church.

Have you ever noticed how sometimes God’s word is directed at you so accurately that you unconsciously deflect it? 

I experienced this once at a retreat while listening to a woman speak honestly and humbly about the challenges she faced in life. 

I listened, but my reaction was not one of sympathy. Instead, I just felt sorry for myself. As I thought about the challenges in my life phrases like, ‘that was unfair’, ‘why did that have to happen to me?’ and ‘Where was God in all that?’ began piling up in my head. Pretty soon I had a solid barrier of negative thoughts blocking anything positive the speaker had to say. It was a strong, strange reaction to the speaker’s message, Finding peace in the Psalms.  

Later, I found myself offloading my life’s hardships to another woman. She listened and simply said, ‘And God sees all that. He knows’. While her words don’t sound all that comforting, they were something of a lightbulb moment for me. In one fell swoop they knocked down the barrier of negativity that I’d created. On hearing those seven words, I experienced a profound sense of being cared for and supported. I felt that because my heavenly father was aware of all my trials and challenges, I could get through anything. I experienced a wonderful sense of inner peace. 

So, how is that possible? Why was it that simply knowing that God knows what I’m going through comforted me so much? It doesn’t make sense. As a non-Christian friend responded when I tried explaining it, “So you’re happy because God knows about your suffering. But you don’t care that he’s not doing anything about it.” 

Over the following months, I continued to mull over exactly why I’d felt such peace after hearing the woman’s words at the retreat. It frustrated me that my non-Christian friend didn’t get it. It frustrated me that I couldn’t explain it well enough so that she would get it.  

Was I at peace because the creator of the universe, someone so unfathomably big and powerful and good, noticed my suffering amid all the other things he was dealing with? That sounded too much like my friend’s first comment about an uninvolved God who saw suffering and did nothing. 

Was it because I knew that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose? That everything I went through was going to work out for the greater good, including my own, at some point in some way …?  

One day, months later, I was telling a friend about how I’d lost my phone that morning and in searching for it I had bumped my shin on the coffee table and had been late to an appointment which then made me late to something else which ended up not happening because of my lateness. “It was so frustrating!” I said. “Oh dear,” my friend responded. 

I felt embarrassed, like a toddler crying over something adults don’t consider serious. 

However, my friend went on to agree how frustrating it is when one small thing sets off a chain reaction. They commiserated over the cancelled event. They asked how my shin was. Their acknowledgement of the situation, their affirmation of my feelings, their interest in the details was somehow a real soothing balm. And it struck me that perhaps what I’d been made aware of at the retreat was that having a relationship with God is so profoundly good, so sustaining and so life-giving. 

Our Father, who knows us intimately and who delights in us, deeply feels for us. He knows the frustrations, the knocks, the knock-backs, but he offers way more than the ‘Oh dear’-type platitudes.  

I returned to the deep and universal truths found in the Psalms – to where I had originally been guided.  

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.  

You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.  

You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.  

Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.  

Psalm 139:1-4 

God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 

Romans 5:8 

Thank you, Jehovah El Roi, the God who sees me. 

Photo by RoonZ nl on Unsplash

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