WITH is a tiny but mighty, positive word. I have a favorite coffee shop that makes scrumptious white chocolate raspberry scones. They are fantastic on their own but WITH coffee they are absolutely magical. Seeing a film on the big screen is great, but going WITH my husband turns it into a date night. I have a very dear friend that has a sparkling smile and a wardrobe to match. An outfit WITH sequins or sparkles better reflects her effervescent personality. WITH adds value, speaks of companionship, and smacks of steps between basic, better, and best.
In Scripture, this four-letter preposition has even more positive power. Deuteronomy 31:8 assures us that, “The Lord Himself goes before you and will be WITH you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Isaiah 43 reinforces that even fire, flood, and fear are no match for the Lord’s abiding presence. Verse five is written as an authoritative command, “Do not be afraid, for I am WITH you.”
Is it just our human nature to focus on our lack instead of our gain? Even if we make change in our diet to improve our health, we think about what favorite food we are giving up to reach our weight loss goal. Why is it that the WITHOUT seems to outweigh (pun intended) the WITH? Ask a new mom or dad how they are adjusting and they are likely to talk about their loss of sleep, even before they brag on the new addition to the family. We carefully and faithfully add to our savings, but when the stock market is dipping that we attend more closely to our investments, and with the most angst. It strikes me that the Lord has to speak to us in imperatives so it is extra clear that when He is WITH us, we should walk WITHOUT fear, anxiety, or complaint. WITH Him, we lack nothing.
Ask the mom or dad of a new college student about how they are navigating their new landscape and more often than not, you’ll hear about how much they miss their absent student, how empty the house feels, or how sad they are to lose that steady presence in their daily routines. While I am not discounting how much the WITHOUT can hurt, I wonder if, for our sake, we could navigate our loss with a greater sense of gain if we focused on the WITH instead. Let’s not forget who is still WITH us.
- I am WITH family who may relish the fact that I can spend more quality time with them.
Would this be a great time to re-initiate date night with my spouse? Is there a younger sibling who would love to spend more time with me?
- For that matter, do I have an aging parent or a neighbor whose needs can be met by my new margin?
- Does the vacancy in my family make room to attend to friendships that are languishing, volunteer for a cause I am passionate about, consider my own educational goals, join a Bible student, or just slow down?
Can I turn my focus to the fact that my student has chosen a faith-community intentionally? For their sake, let’s not forget who is WITH them.
- They are WITH like-minded students, some of whom will become lifelong friends.
- My student is WITH staff who will encourage them to develop self-advocacy and initiative.
- They are studying WITH faculty who teach from a biblical perspective and model maturity in Christ.
- My student is at Northwestern WITH my blessing. Despite missing them, I know this is where they are supposed to be right now.
Most importantly, Because of His omnipresence, the Lord is WITH both me and my student. Psalm 139:5 reminds us of His personal proximity. “You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.” David goes on to tell us that he can hardly comprehend how very near the Lord remains, whether we are at home or far away. Verses 7-10 draw the picture of His presence WITH us. “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”
Lord, You are WITH me, even in this. How can I be WITHOUT when You are my constant companion? While I am adjusting to this new chapter in life, You are there. While I am struggling with grief, You are there. When I am trying to stay on the positive side of what I have instead of focusing on what I have lost, You are helping me re-frame my new world. When I am having a hard time letting my student find a new community, rely on others, and find a faith that is their own, remind me that You are not only with me, you are also with them. Thank you for your powerful, ceaseless, faithful, abiding presence in our lives. To be WITHOUT You is true loss. To be WITH You is not basic, better, or event best—it is the ultimate gain. Amen