January 5, 2021
Weekly Reflection – Nearer My God to Thee
Nearer My God to Thee: “To be near God is my happiness” was this past year’s theme for one of my friends, Drew Woods of Sugar Land, Texas, where he pastors a large church that has been affected by the COVID-19 virus. Pastor Woods used this theme in his sermons almost every week of 2020. Think on that for a moment. “To be near God is my happiness.”
True happiness is never achieved without a close relationship to God, is it? In fact, you might graph one’s level of happiness versus one’s closeness to God. The further from God one is, the less happy he or she is likely to be. Conversely, the closer to God we find ourselves, the happier we are. And of course, whatever fear and anxiety we carry will diminish the closer we are to our “savior.” Do you want to be happy? Move nearer to God!
I am reminded of the movie Titanic, where the ship’s musicians play “Nearer my God to Thee” as the ship is sinking and face certain death in the cold North Atlantic waters. The passengers found some level of happiness in their desire to be close to God. Psalm 23 says something about this in its first verse, “The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want…” and then, “…though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I shall fear no evil FOR THOU ART WITH ME.” The early Christian martyrs know something about this as well, didn’t they?
The term “happiness” has been defined as “…a mental or emotional state of well-being characterized by pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy.” The apostle Paul seems to have known this when he told the Philippians to “Rejoice in the Lord always…” Then, after a list of very positive things he says we are to think on, he adds, “…and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:4-9). And James, in James 4:8, tells the twelve tribes that were scattered among the nations too, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”
In that context, when we draw near to God, we will find God coming closer to us. And we will experience that mental or emotional state of well-being that is known as happiness, even in the face of intense danger, even the danger associated with a worldwide pandemic. Yes, “To be near God is my happiness.”
So, how might you draw nearer to God in the coming year? How will your level of happiness be increased? Let me suggest that we add at least one new spiritual practice to our lives. For example, we might commit to reading the Bible for 30 minutes each day. Or we might pray that amount of time. Could we make it a spiritual practice to do one especially good deed each day?
There are a number of other special practices that one could begin. These include what is called Lectio Divina and the Examen, or just finding someone to become a spiritual companion in our walk. Think about it. Become proactive in drawing nearer to God and see what happens!
Read more Weekly Reflections: Chaplain’s Corner