8 – On the Nearness of God

In my first post, I wrote that following the stroke I experienced a continuous nearness of the Lord beyond anything I had ever known in all my years of walking with God. I could look back over my life and see that, especially during times of trouble, he had always drawn near, always been present, but this was something more. My mind was consumed with thoughts of him and his Kingdom; my heart was so filled with love and gratitude for him it literally ached; my soul longed for him and cried out to be with him at all times. Scriptures I had never intentionally memorized came to me unbeckoned and were on my lips before I was fully cognizant of my intent to recite them. Peace beyond understanding flooded every part of me, and though troubles abounded, I could not find room for any distress to live long, so quickly would my thoughts and emotions return to the Lord. It was brilliant and beautiful and glorious, and I was immensely thankful. But being of a rather curious and analytical nature, I wondered over it continually. 

I knew that those in the fields of neurology and psychology could quickly explain away such a phenomenon. Neurologists would point to the damaged areas of my brain, highlighting the fact that the lobe responsible for emotion was the greatest affected, causing a range of abnormal emotional responses, not to mention the remainder of my brain that, although less severely impacted by the loss of blood flow, was impaired enough to cause some cognitive distortions and slowed mental processes. Aside from the physical realities, any psychologist worth their salt would point out that I had just been through a traumatic event and would certainly predict that someone who had so suddenly faced their own mortality might respond with increased religious sentiment. And of course, the leading proponents of moral psychology, a discipline I studied in depth during my Masters program, would rationalize all attempts to derive meaning and direction through religious channels as a simple evolutionary necessity for societal thriving, understandable for one in so uncertain a position following a traumatic brain injury. While I might find some merit in the first two explanations, I had long since eliminated the third because my personal experiences with the Living God combined with the testimony of “such a great cloud of witnesses” (see Hebrews 12:1) just did not bear out such a reductionistic approach.

So for clarification on my heightened spiritual state, I turned to the Creator, the One who made me and knows me in my innermost being, because through the years I have become convinced that he alone will make me know wisdom (see Psalm 51:6). The answer that came was simply this: “During the stroke, I came very near to you.” I would not understand exactly what he meant by that statement for several weeks still. But I thought back to the night in the ER, to the moment when he said I would live, and the Spirit began to speak Psalm 23, and I was perfectly at peace and free of pain. Although the details were still unclear, I understood by his response that the Lord had come nearer to me than ever before and somehow that nearness had a transformative effect on my spirit. Cognitive and emotional impairments aside, I knew I had been forever spiritually changed that night.

“The Lord is near to all who call on him.”

Psalm 145:18

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