Nearer, my God, to Thee

woman singing

Over the past couple of weeks as I have been having health issues, I have put together a little prayer area in my bedroom. The space is filled with a “prayer chair,” sticky notes, journals and markers, and paintings for visuals to look up to. When I have not been feeling well, it is hard to pray, or think, or even get up with enough time to spend time with the Lord. Despite those days, this little sanctuary is a daily reminder that His presence never leaves and He is always near. 

It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.

Deuteronomy 31:8

At the beginning of the pandemic and into the fall, my prayer time became rich and full as I studied the book Spiritual Disciplines, and spent my early mornings in prayer, meditation, and Bible reading. Come winter, that time quickly dissipated as the need for rest filled that time, and my focus drained from me. 

You might not be experiencing an illness, but you might be in a season where time is filled with caring for children, or family members, or working long hours or multiple jobs, or maybe you are in a time of spiritual drought. Time with the Lord may come as a gift to you, or feel incredibly hard to do, or something in between. I tend to fall into a mindset of guilt and shame when I do not spend enough time with Him — I cannot seem to wrap my head around balancing the weight of life’s circumstances. 

Sometimes I feel I am giving myself grace, and other times that I am giving myself too much grace. The legalism that sets forth in my mind keeps me from fully experiencing the true and overflowing love of a generous and caring Father who knows our struggles, our worries, our health, and our situations. Turning to others for help and wisdom has helped me see that when life’s circumstances get in the way, He will meet us where we are at, speak to us in the smallest and biggest of ways, and carry us through, not condemning us but calling us to draw near to Him. 

The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen for his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.

John 10:3

Redefining Time with God during Suffering

My friend sent me this hymn a few weeks ago, and I have found immense comfort in its chorus as it pleads– “Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee.” I find myself repeating the chorus throughout the day. I find myself asking Him to be nearer and nearer as I continue to realize that there is no greater comfort. The more I let go of the box of time I have decided is “adequate” for spending time with Him, the more open I am to experiencing Him, His grace, and His love and the dearer that time becomes when I am able or feeling well enough to sit with Him. He has not left me because my time with Him has changed in its nature. In fact, I have learned more about His presence through my circumstances because my time has changed. 

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Hebrews 4:16

Because of Jesus, nothing separates us from the Father for help and this hymn mentions several difficulties: darkness, wandering, woes, and griefs. Yet, despite these, the writer continues to ask for Him to draw nearer, and praise His name. We can ask without reproach, knowing that He will help us in our time of need because it is He who gives us comfort and strength. It is during difficult times that I am reminded even more of my need for God’s grace and His character of Helper, Comforter, and Healer/Physician. I can look at my circumstances and worship and celebrate that I am not alone in them because I have the greatest gift of Jesus by my side. 

Grace is ongoing, not built upon the time I put into it, but the life that Jesus himself gave sacrificed on the cross. It is not a scale that goes up and down depending on my actions, but a well that overflows. Being in Christ, He has already called us His own. And so, I look to the little sanctuary I have made in my room as a physical reminder that though things look different in the current rhythm of my life, He is unchanging, forever loving, and forever holding His hands outstretched towards me. He desires to be walking with us in all seasons and circumstances, regardless of what we can offer.  

How do I learn more about your grace, Father? Continue asking to draw nearer to Him. 

Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

E’en though it be a cross that raiseth me;

Still all my song shall be nearer, my God, to Thee,

Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

Though like the wanderer, the sun gone down,

Darkness be over me, my rest a stone;

Yet in my dreams I’d be nearer, my God, to Thee,

Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

There let the way appear steps unto heav’n;

All that Thou sendest me in mercy giv’n;

Angels to beckon me nearer, my God, to Thee,

Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

Then with my waking thoughts bright with Thy praise,

Out of my stony griefs Bethel I’ll raise;

So by my woes to be nearer, my God, to Thee,

Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

Or if on joyful wing, cleaving the sky,

Sun, moon, and stars forgot, upwards I fly,

Still all my song shall be, nearer, my God, to Thee,

Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

Jenny singing alongside Jackson Howard and David Natalie

You may also like