October 23, 2023

The Benefits of Proximity

God’s invitation to Moses in Exodus 33:21 was the opening text of a sermon during one of our 2023 camp meeting services. That verse states, “And the LORD said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock.” The minister emphasized the words “a place by me” as he read.

For several weeks prior to camp meeting, the first verse of Psalm 91 had been going through my mind: “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” When I heard the words “a place by me,” I mentally connected the two portions of Scripture. What a wonderful privilege it is to dwell in a place by Almighty God, near enough to be under His shadow! While there are requirements for living in that place, there are also amazing benefits. A parallel example from my own life came to mind.

The requirements for proximity

Living by someone you love became a reality for my husband and me some years ago when we decided to downsize from the large, three-story house where we had raised our five children to a smaller home more suited to “empty nesters.” A parcel of land near the church that could be divided into two buildable lots came on the market, and we were interested. Ultimately, we decided to purchase the property jointly with our youngest daughter and her husband, and build neighboring houses.

It did not take long for the four of us to discover that a joint project of this nature came with requirements. It would necessitate transparency, agreement . . . and lots of effort!

The need for transparency was obvious as assets, account balances, credit ratings, and monthly earnings for both households were put on the table in connection with obtaining the property. Agreement had to be reached as we poured over the lot’s legal description and the city requirements for land division. The property was irregular in shape and one side faced a busy street, so we needed to determine how it should be divided. Who would build on which portion? Could we come up with house dimensions that would fit on the lots and still meet our needs? Finally, the process took effort! We had to work through the land division procedure with the city, get approval to remove a few trees from the property, and adjust house plans to accommodate the required property line setbacks. And that was all before we even started the building process!

Dwelling near God also requires transparency, agreement, and effort, and this begins with salvation. We must come to God with open hearts and nothing hidden, confessing and repenting of our sins. We must align our lives to His Word in agreement with the principles and instructions He has given. Staying close to Him will require effort on our parts. While we cannot earn salvation—it is the free gift of God to those who repent and believe on Him—we will not coast into Heaven! I’m reminded of the familiar old hymn “Am I a Soldier of the Cross?” which asks the thought-provoking questions:

Must I be carried to the skies
On flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize,
And sailed through bloody seas?

Are there no foes for me to face?
Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend to grace,
To help me on to God?

The benefits of proximity

As my husband and I look back on those busy days of the building process, we remember with amusement that some of our acquaintances were initially dubious. From time to time, someone would ask us, “Do you really want to live that close to your children?” Friends of our daughter and son-in-law would ask them, “Do you really want to live that close to your parents?” We never had any doubts, and now, a dozen years later, we can heartily affirm the benefits of living by our children—including many that we never imagined when we started the process. Here are just four of those benefits.

Companionship. Since those days of house building, our next-door neighbors have added three sweet daughters to the little son who was toddling around the site as we installed wiring, sanded sheetrock, and painted walls on their house, the first to be built. Once our house was completed, we had the ongoing privilege of rocking babies and reading bedtime stories that we would never have enjoyed if we lived further away. (And yes, we changed a few diapers too!) While babies and bedtime stories are a thing of the past, we’re now enjoying family walks, backyard bonfires, and loaning our truck to a teenager!

Crisis intervention. Help in times of crisis is another benefit we’ve appreciated. I don’t consider myself to be accident prone, but it was a great blessing to have a medical professional (our son-in-law) living right next door when I lacerated a finger on an immersion blender. Then there was the time I scalded my hand and wrist with boiling stew, and another occasion when I fell down a flight of stairs. In each case, our son-in-law was there within moments to assess the situation, provide calm reassurance, take me to the emergency room for stitches, or call 9-1-1 for an ambulance!

Daily support. Thankfully, crisis situations only occur on an infrequent basis. However, small needs arise almost daily, and it is good to have someone nearby to help out. When I get to work and can’t remember if I closed the garage door, a grandchild is happy to run over and check. If we need assistance to move a heavy table or couch, a quick call is all that is needed. When we are on vacation, you can guess who takes in our mail and waters the houseplants. Nearly every day, our two families interact with each other.

Availability of resources. Only someone who lives next to family will understand how convenient it is to have a backup supply of resources right next door. When I need extra plates for a family dinner (we now number twenty-four when our other children, spouses, and grandchildren join us) or am out of one ingredient when I want to bake bread, I can get just what I need a few feet away. When my son-in-law needs a putty knife or my daughter wants to borrow a tablecloth, they know where to come. We have a veritable lending library going on between the two households!

The benefits of dwelling by God

As I considered the benefits of living by family, it occurred to me that the same benefits are abundantly available to those who accept God’s invitation to dwell in a place by Him.

Companionship. In the Book of Proverbs, we read that “there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). In Hebrews 13:5 we are told that God has said, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” The family next door often goes places without us, of course, and we miss them when no lights are on in their house and no grandkids are running in and out our back door. But Jesus will never leave us alone. He is never asleep, never on vacation—never even gone to the grocery store!

Crisis intervention. We always have a place to turn when a crisis arises—we can look to Jesus. Psalm 34:15 says, “The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry,” and in our fifty-three years of marriage, my husband and I have proved that to be true. When I was a young mother, I went through a time of severe illness and spent many weeks in the hospital. One night my condition suddenly deteriorated, and the medical staff literally ran my bed through the hospital halls into the Intensive Care Unit. As doctors and nurses gathered around me and worked to stabilize my condition, God gave me a song: “Near to the Heart of God.” I didn’t know what would happen to me, but I knew He was there! Another time when our children were small, my husband had a severe staph infection that nearly took his life. How grateful we were that we could turn to God and feel His loving arms around us during that period!

Daily support. God also helps with day-to-day concerns. We have found that the One who notes the sparrow’s fall (see Matthew 10:29) sees our needs as well. My mind goes back to prayers that we would find missing keys (our toddler son had thrown them in the fireplace!) and later, that God would touch our two-year-old daughter who was suffering with a terrible earache. God has proved Himself willing to get right down to the basics of our existence. He loves us enough to walk with us through our world of pending bills, busy schedules, and stalled cars. The fact that we would rather not have to replace the washing machine this month doesn’t escape His notice. He cares! And He helps.

Availability of resources. Psalm 68:19 records the words of David: “Blessed be the LORD, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation.” Over the years, we have found that God’s resources are unlimited and always available. When we were unsure about how to handle our first grader’s reluctance to go to school, He led me to volunteer in the classroom, and that made all the difference. When my mother passed away suddenly from a stroke, He was there to bring comfort in an unforgettable manner. When we needed to arrange an in-home companion for a widowed aunt, He provided a wonderful caregiver to live with her. I could go on and on! Guidance, wisdom, encouragement, and so much more are all freely given when we come to Him with our needs.

A place available to all

Not everyone can live next door to family, but all of us can have a place by God. It is accessed through surrender and faith, and then maintained through daily obedience. If you have not yet come into that “secret place,” you cannot imagine the benefits that will be yours when you do! Though some may question your decision at first, it will prove to be an immeasurably good move and you will never be sorry. You will find that a place by God is a precious place, and the benefits and blessings mentioned above—and countless more—will be yours.

apostolic faith magazine