Recently, I had to fill out a typical application to volunteer for a Christian camp I’ve been serving for some 20 years. The past couple of years it has included a question like this, “How has God showed up in your life in the past year?” It’s not surprising. Phrases about God, showing up have become quite trendy in modern Christian circles.
Why do I bring this up? Because it’s very misleading and unbiblical.
Now, I don’t imagine our God is wringing His hands about the little things in life. He is a gracious, loving God, who wants the best for all of us. He, also, cares about the things that really matter.
1 Timothy 4:16 says, “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Be tenacious in them. If you do, you’ll save yourself and your hearers (literal paraphrase).” So, how we live and think about Biblical subjects matters. According to this verse, it’s actually an issue of salvation.
“God showing up” is quite a trendy phrase. So, why would I say it’s misleading and unbiblical?
Orthodox Christianity holds that God is omnipresent. That means He is everywhere all the time. It necessarily means He is ever-present.
Thinking God “shows up” is thinking He is not omnipresent. To believe He has to “show up” is to believe He is absent sometimes. It means He leaves us and makes cameo appearances in moments. Here are some other passages which speak of God’s ever-presence: Proverbs 15:3; 1 Kings 8:27; Psalm 139:7-10; Jeremiah 23:23-24; Acts 17:27.
Just because we might not acknowledge His presence doesn’t mean He is absent. It simply means we are ignorant or unaware of His presence. And we would be wrong for thinking that.
A very familiar passage in Deuteronomy 31 says, “Be strong and courageous.” The rest of the verse gives us a snapshot of God and how His relationship works with His people. It says, “He will not leave you or forsake you.” God does not abandon His people. He is ever-present.
This is a rudimentary understanding in orthodox Christianity. God does not abandon His people. He truly is ever-present. We never have to wait for Him to just “show up.” He is already with us.
The problem I have with this trendy phrase of “God showing up” is that to believe this necessarily means He is not ever-present – that we have to wait on Him to finally come around – that He does abandon us.
In a world in which so many people live hopeless, purposeless, peaceless, aimless and lonely lives, the last thing we need is to make Christians feel the same. Christians of all people should know they are never alone – that God is with them. Yet, if we teach generations that God is not ever-present, we teach them they are alone until He does “show up.”
Sure, it sounds cool and trendy to talk about God “showing up,” but it is very dangerous. Suicides are up even among Christians. Why would we do something to contribute to the thinking that you are alone even as you believe in God? Why would we teach or imply we have to wait on God to finally “show up.” This could prove fatal, literally, to people who struggle with feelings of loneliness, isolation, hopelessness, depression or abandonment.
Teaching or implying God does abandon His people is reckless at best. God does not abandon His people. He does not leave us alone. He actually stays with us because He loves us.
Join me in leaning into (another trendy phrase in Christian circles) the Bible, rather than further away from it. If someone talks about God, “showing up,” remind them, He never leaves us. Let them know He never “shows up,” but is always with us. Let’s undo the damage done with reckless words and make people aware God really is ever-present because He loves us and will not abandon us.
Pastor Jeff Adams is a longtime community leader, victim advocate, counselor and chaplain. He ministers internationally, nationally and locally. His column appears online periodically and he can be reached at email@example.com.
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