Twice in the span of thirty-one months a friend and I sat together in utter silence, our halcyon twenties again shattered by doubt, sadness, and confusion as we grieved over not one suicide, but two. Moments like that are paradoxical: time has somehow ceased without slowing down; the air hangs both arid and thick.
In midst of tragedy people often realize the potency of presence. We feel how important others can be simply by having them around us.
The power of a seat filled often surprises us, but maybe it shouldn’t. Presence runs as a strong thematic undercurrent in the Bible. God has been showing us the power of presence—his presence in particular—throughout the scriptures.
From humanity’s inception, we see God dwelling with his people collectively. In Eden God walked with Adam and Eve. After liberating Israel he leads them as a pillar and cloud and dwells with them in the Ark of the Covenant, the Tabernacle, and eventually the Temple. Israel often lived with an acute awareness of the presence of God with his people, to the point that they held a deep fear that God would leave them. But he never did. God showed up and walked among them in the person of Jesus. Fulfilling both the physical reality and the promise that God would be with his people. After Jesus ascended to Heaven, the Holy Spirit came upon God’s people, dwelling in them. When we look forward to Revelation we see a parallel to Genesis, where God is again fully dwelling with his people, even wiping away tears from their eyes. From beginning to end, God is actively seeking out to be with his people.
But God, it seems, desires to be with his people, not simply as a community, but with them individually too.
In 2 Samuel 7 God has just made a covenant with David to establish his house forever, and, in response, David goes and sits in the presence of God. It is a simple and stirring picture. Angels induce fear and God’s majesty is overwhelming, but here David merely goes and sits with God.
God’s relationship with David is intimate and personal. From walking in the garden to wiping away tears, amid the great story, God converses with the one who sits in his presence. He is a God who is there.
I will always remember our friends who sat with me through the pain of loss. Words were spoken, of course, but though I cannot remember which ones but I will always remember that my friend was there to speak them, that they showed up. When people show up, in the bad times and the good I am more closely reminded me that I have a God who is there too.