“You can’t see the forest for all the trees” captures a truth that has deep significance. In our search for truth, we often get so close to it that our very nearness blinds us to it. The vastness of ocean cannot be discovered by swimming in it, but by seeing it from a satellite above it. The love of a relationship cannot be experienced by being enmeshed in it, but by healthy independence from it. The fruitfulness of a life cannot be measured by incremental moments but by final and global evaluation.
The truth of being too close to something and thus not seeing it is true especially with God. After insisting on the reality of the unknown God, the Apostle Paul declares to the Athenians “that they should seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being…” How do we do this? How do we find a God in whom we live and move and have our being? How can God who is that close still be far enough to see Him?
It reminds me of the twin boys in the womb who are talking with each other. One says, “Hey brother! Do you think there is life after birth? Do you believe in mom?” “Nay,” said the other, “I don’t believe these things, I am an atheist. I mean, have you ever seen Mom?” Strangely enough, many people today speak like these twins do. They reject the very essence of life being surrounded by the giver of this life. For them God is too close to see Him, too loving to feel it, and too merciful to appreciate it. This is the arrogance of cleverness and human intelligence. True faith believes before seeing. For the twins, true faith is believing in mom before birth. For us true faith is believing in God before death.
Dr. David E. Garland, professor of New Testament writes, “One may guess that death must be something very much like birth. Before birth the child is totally surrounded in what is a safe and warm environment and gets all of his life from his mother. But he does not see his mother. When birth comes, it must be quite a shock to the child. The baby leaves the safe and warm confines of the mother’s womb and enters a harsh, bright, cold world. But only after birth is the child able to see its mother and be held and kissed. In life on earth we are totally surrounded by God, who sustains our lives. But God remains invisible to us. When death comes to each of us, it may be a shock to our system, but then we will see the God who gave us life, nourished us and gives us life again (John 3:2)”
While we are alive, there is no way to escape the God that holds us, loves us, and pours His grace on us exactly because He is so close. But, while we are alive there is also the chance to believe in Him before you die. Take that opportunity!
Helmar Heckel is the Chaplain at Good Samaritan / Ridgeview Medical Center.