(Read Exodus 17:1-7 and Psalm 139:1-18)
Human emotion is not an adequate indicator of truth.
Or said in another way: Just because you feel something does not mean that something is true.
For example, one day you might feel fat. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you are fat. The next day you might feel like you look good, thin even. On both days, your weight might be exactly the same. How you feel does not always match up with reality.
Another example. One day, you might feel like you don’t have enough money. There’s the house payment, the car insurance, the oil prices are up, groceries, Christmas is coming... And its getting to you, and you’re feeling like you don’t have enough money to pay for it all.
But a day or two later, without anything changing, you might feel like: I can handle this. First, I’ll pay the mortgage, then the car insurance, then fill the oil tank….We’re going to have enough! You might say to yourself. These are two totally different ways of perceiving life, even though the circumstance remains the same. It's important to know that the head and the heart can be deceiving.
Too often, we react to everything we think and feel like they are definitive statements from God. We often draw conclusions from our thoughts and feelings that are not true!
We might not say these things aloud, but this is what goes on in our inner dialogue:
I feel unlovable; therefore, no one must love me.
I feel hurt; therefore, someone must have done something wrong to hurt me.
I feel alone, therefore, I must not have any friends.
While the feelings may be real in the above statements and need to be acknowledged, the conclusions are not always true. You can feel fat and be thin. You can feel poor and be rich. You can feel unlovable and be loved. You can feel hurt and no one is trying to hurt you. You can feel alone and there might be many people who are there for you.
Our emotions and thoughts are not always adequate indicators of the truth.
Look at the Israelites. Here they are again, in the desert doubting the existence of God. No, not the existence of God, but whether God existed with and for them. The Israelites are hungry; they are thirsty, and because of this suffering, they feel abandoned; they feel like God is not with them. Because of how they feel about being in the desert, they question God’s faithfulness. “Is God among us or not?" They ask.
But just because they feel abandoned does not mean they are. In fact, God is there for them, providing. In today’s text, the Israelite’s are thirsty, and God gives them water to drink (and in a miraculous way!!). Not long ago, they were hungry, and God rained down manna from heaven. And before that, they were slaves in Egypt, and God found them a leader to take them out of that horrible situation and opened up the Red Sea so they could escape. God has proved God’s faithfulness time and time again to Israel.
And so I’ll say it again, emotion and thought can be deceptive. Not always, but can be. The Israelites are doubting God’s faithfulness because of how they feel, when really it is their faithfulness that is in question.
True faithfulness does not waver. Not in good times or in bad. All relationships go through ups and downs, feeling closer-feeling distant, good phases and not so good phases and downright bad phases. Feeling like God is answering your prayers or not answering your prayers. Feelings waver, but faithfulness does not have to.
God is truly faithful, so God never wavers in being among us. There is never a time that God says, “Forget these people.” In the Hebrew Scriptures, God made a covenant through Abraham, and has never wavered from that covenant. In the New Testament, God made a new covenant to the Gentiles through water and the Spirit, through Jesus Christ, and has never wavered from that covenant.
When we read the Bible, we see that God has repeatedly come to the rescue of God's people. Today, the Israelites received water in the desert, yesterday they received manna, and before that God helped them to escape from slavery.
Even moreso, we know that God is faithful by coming to be with us in the person of Jesus Christ. To show us just how invested God was, Jesus came to earth as merely a man, emptying himself of his glory, to be with us in our suffering and to suffer for our salvation.
After Jesus was crucified, raised from the dead and ascended into heaven, he knew that we would miss him and feel alone again, so he promised us he would not abandon us. He said, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you…The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14). Jesus said he would be with us each moment and forever as the Holy Spirit, and his parting words in the gospel of Matthew are: “And be assured I am with you always, even unto the end of the age.”
God is always among us. God is faithful and steadfast, even if we feel or think otherwise.
Just because something has gone bad or wrong in our lives, does not mean God has left us. God is with us when times are bad, and God is with us when times are good. I guess it’s easier to feel God’s presence and believe God is with us when life is easy and enjoyable, but the point is: God never leaves us, even when we try to say that he has.
Actually, we can’t make God go away no matter how hard we try.
There is a Psalm titled the inescapable God (Psalm 139). It says:
If we ascend to heaven, God is there.
If we plumit to the pit, God is there.
If we fly off to the farthest reaches of the sea, God is there.
The truth of the matter is, no matter where you are, God is with you there.
No matter what you are going through in life, whether you feel God or not, the truth is this: Our God is faithful, steadfast and true, always has been and always will be.