“From a Distance”, a song written in 1987 by Julie Gold and popularised by Bette Midler, portrays a commonly held view of God’s perspective on the world. The song suggests a utopian view of the world from a distance, with “no guns, no bombs, no diseases, no hungry mouths to feed”. The idea is that as you zoom out you get a different angle of vision so that the problems go out of focus, the suffering disappears. As we try to make sense of the world around us, with the wonder and beauty of nature, the pleasure and happiness of relationships juxtaposed against incredible suffering and evil, some come to the conclusion that God cannot be aware of, let alone interested in, the details of our lives.
In the Bible God reveals Himself and His view of our world in what He says and what He does. God presents Himself as the Creator of all things, the earth, the universe and all its details. In Job chapter 38 God asks Job, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding”, and goes on to give a magnificent description of His omnipotent power and majesty in creation. In Psalm 139 David tells us that because God is everywhere, unbounded by place, there is nowhere David can flee from His presence. In the book of Revelation God reveals Himself as the Alpha and Omega – the beginning and the end – the one who is unconfined by time. Clearly, God’s perspective is beyond our finite understanding, for He alone is able to see the world in its entirety, past, present and future.
But in contrast to the song, God is not limited to a macro perspective of our world. Rather, He is concerned with individuals and is fully acquainted with our suffering and distress. The Genesis record describes in detail the creation of the first two people, Adam and Eve, with whom God established a relationship. Through individual encounters in the Old Testament, God revealed more of His character, demonstrating a desire for communion with people, a desire to love and bless them. David writes in Psalm 139 that God knew him from the moment of his conception. In the New Testament, however, God is revealed most conclusively through His Son, Jesus Christ. In His many one-to-one encounters with people, Jesus demonstrated the personal nature of God’s compassion. He knew intimately the suffering, disease and poverty of so many who were outcasts in their own society. He taught that God even knows every sparrow that falls to the ground. How much more would He know when His people are suffering!
God sees His entire creation in its place in the universe: His perspective is unbounded by time or place. But God also has a much closer perspective on individual lives. He knows our circumstances, trials and failings. He longs to have a relationship with us that we might know Him.