By J.R. Miller
"How precious also are your thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more in number than the sand; when I awake, I am still with you!"
We like to know that people are thinking about us. Even a postal card coming in the mail some morning from a friend far away, saying only, "I am thinking of you," brings you a strange uplift. You were sick for a time and could not see your friends, and one day a rose was sent up to your room with a card and a message of love. How it cheered you! Someone was thinking of you. You were in sorrow, and a little note came in with just a verse of Scripture, a word of sympathy, or a "God bless you!" and a name. It was almost as if an angel from heaven had visited you. Somebody was thinking of you. You have not forgotten how it helped you.
"How precious also are your thoughts unto me, O God!" This means God's thoughts of us. They are precious. In one of the previous verses of the Psalm, the poet tells us that God knows all our thoughts. Here he tells us of God's own thoughts--He thinks of us--thinks of us with love. The root of the word rendered "precious" is weighty. God's thoughts are weighty, like gold. Then they are without number--that is, God does not think of us merely once in a lifetime, or now and then--but continually. "How great is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more in number than the sand." God thinks about us.
"How precious are your thoughts unto me, O God!" The Bible teaches unmistakably, that God cares for us. A scientific writer not long ago declared that the greatest discovery of the twentieth century would be the discovery of God, and that then will it be known that God does not care. It would be terrible if this should prove to be true. If God never thinks about you, if you have no place in His heart, this would be a dark world for you. But we do not need to wait for a new discovery of God in this twentieth century. The discovery has been already made--and God does care! His name is Father. Can one be a father--and not care for his child! Jesus came to reveal God to us, and He tells us over and over--that God loves us, thinks about us, provides for us, hears our prayers.
Not only are we in God's thoughts--but He thinks about us as individuals, not merely as a race. The teaching of the whole Bible is that God knows us individually. There was only one sheep that had strayed from the fold--but the shepherd missed that one, thought about it, and sought it over the hills. The Psalms abound in expressions like these: "The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want." "He leads me." "I sought the Lord and he answered me." "When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up."
"When I awake--I am still with you." No matter where you awake, you will find God bending over you. This is the drift of the whole Bible. It is not God and the human family, not God and a nation--but God and the individual. The Good Shepherd calls His own sheep by name. The Father never forgets one of His own children. Though you are cast on a bare rock in the sea, and no friend in the world knows where you are--you are in God's thought. He is watching and caring. Though you are carrying today some secret grief or trouble, of which no one on earth can know--He knows. He sympathizes. He is thinking of you.
In one of the earlier verses of our Psalm, the poet says to God, "You understand my thoughts afar off." Your most secret thoughts are known in heaven. Jesus is touched even with the feeling of our infirmities. In all your afflictions, He is afflicted. It is just as if there were only one person in the world--and you were that one. He is thinking of you today--as if He had only you to think of, in all the world.
"How precious are your thoughts unto me, O God!" Could anything be more precious, more comforting, more strengthening, more uplifting; than to know that God really cares, that whatever your need or trouble, He is thinking about you? If you actually believe this, all your trouble will be light, and life's meaning will all be changed for you.
Providence is full of illustrations of God's special thought for His children. In an address made in Glasgow before an Insurance and Actuarial Society, James Byers Black told the story of the escape of the one man who survived the Tay Bridge disaster, some years ago. This man left the train when it stopped for a moment at Fort Street station, just before it started on its journey to death. His hat had blown off--and he followed his impulse to run after it. At that instant the train moved off--and the man was left standing alone at the little wayside station, on a dark and tempestuous night. Within a very few minutes, the train had crashed through the broken bridge and had carried seventy-four people--everyone on board--down to death in the remorseless waters of the Tay River. The man whose hat blew off--was the sole survivor of that night's tragedy.
It would be interesting to know this man's subsequent history. Why was he spared? What work was there for him to do? If we could understand the mystery of Divine Providence, no doubt we would learn the reason why God thought of this man and kept him off the ill-fated train. We call this a special providence.
Someone once asked George Macdonald if he believed in special providences. He said, "Yes--in the providences--but not in the special." He believed that we were always meeting providences. Not now and then, in some remarkable instances--but in every event and occurrence, there is a Divine Providence. God is always on the field. Our life is full of God. We do not usually see His hand--but He is never absent. There are no accidents, no chances--in life. God thinks of us continually, and watches over all our movements. We call it a providence when there is a disaster on the railway--and we are not hurt. Is it any less a providence when the train runs with no disaster, and we are uninjured?
One man asked thanks to be given in a meeting, because his horse stumbled on the edge of the precipice and he escaped being dashed to death. Another man asked to be included in the thanksgiving, because he passed on the same road and his horse did not even stumble. Not only does God deliver us in danger--but He guards from danger! Every man is immortal--until his work is done. "How precious are your thoughts unto me, O God." I am glad I do not have to plan and direct my own life. God thinks upon me!
God's thoughts for our life, may not always be our thoughts--but they are always the right and the best thoughts. There is a verse in Isaiah which I always read with deep reverence. "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth--so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." It is God's thoughts we want for our life, rather than our own thoughts. Of course, God's thought for us is higher than ours; that is, wiser, better, safer--than ours. He is infinite in knowledge, and sees the end from the beginning.
We will all assent to this as a truth, and also as a theory of life. But when we come to the acceptance of God's thought, His way, His plan, instead of our own, sometimes we fail. We think that we could plan better than God has planned. We are not willing to accept His thought for our life. What just now, would you make different--if you were directing your life! You would leave out some disappointments, perhaps. You would not have this year's pinching times, if you were changing things to your own mind. But would it be better that way! Perhaps the best things in your whole life--have come out of the things you would omit--if you were planning!
When we say, "How precious are your thoughts unto me, O God!" we should be ready to accept these thoughts, to believe in them, to yield ourselves to them. Have you ever thought what a glorious thing it is to have God's plan for your life, to know that He thought about you before you were made, and then made you according to His thought? It is a wonderful truth. No wonder that George Macdonald said he would rather be the being God made him to be--than the most glorious creature he could think of. No possible human plan for your life could be half so high, so noble, so beautiful--as God's thought for you.
This is true, not only for the plan of our life in general--but of each, detail of it. We are coming all the while to certain experiences which so break into our thought for our life, that we are startled and say, "Surely this cannot be God's thought for me." Sometimes we have pleaded with God to withhold from us something--some sorrow, some loss, some pain--which seemed to be impending, and we did not get our request. That impending affliction came to us--in spite of our prayers. What really happened? God's perfect thought for our life at that point went on, instead of our lower thought. And that was best!
Our desire should always be--that God's thought shall be realized, and not ours. This should be our prayer in the most intense moments of our life.
One tells of an unanswered prayer. There had been the most passionate pleading for something without which it seemed that the friend's life would be most incomplete. It appeared that it would be nothing less than disaster to have the request not granted. But if it was God's thought for the life, it would have been no disaster. The disaster, then, would have been the granting of the request! "My ways are higher than your ways; and my thoughts than your thoughts." When will we learn this?
God's thoughts for us are always good, always right. Jeremiah, in comforting the exiles in captivity, said: "Thus says Jehovah, After seventy years are accomplished for Babylon, I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says Jehovah, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you hope in the days to come." God's thought for His people in the captivity was peace, good, blessing. When you are passing through some great sorrow, some overwhelming loss, some sore trial, God's thought for you always is peace, good, blessing.
It seems to me that if we would only believe this, if we would only be sure of it, whatever the experiences may be, nothing ever could disturb us. Of course, we cannot understand things, and we cannot see how good can be in our Father's thought for us--when all seems so destructive, so ruinous. But here is the divine word for it, "I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says Jehovah, thoughts of peace and not of evil." Then we have the experience of the past. Has it not been always so? God never had a thought toward any child of His--that was not a thought of peace.
He always means good, even in the most painful trials. The cross of Christ was a thought of God, and you know what infinite blessing the cross gave to the world. Every disappointment of yours is a thought of love, if you understood it.