A few years back we arrived in a city in China of approximately 7 million people. It was late at night, we had traveled long, and we were tired. We were picked up by a shuttle bus at the airport, and taken to our high rise condo in a certain downtown area. I helped organize the trip, so I had all the information, documents, and money for our hotels, tour, and travel as well as my laptop, in my backpack. My wife was with us on that trip, and she, too, carried an identical backpack. As we unloaded from the shuttle, I saw one of the young men with the backpack, and supposed it was mine, so we proceeded to head up toward our room, and the shuttle drove away. It was only when we got up to the room that we realized that we had only one backpack. And it wasn’t mine. It was late at night, and there was nothing we could do about it.
Have you ever had that helpless, lump in the throat, knot in the stomach, sinking feeling when you realize you lost something valuable? In Luke 2:44-46, Jesus’ parents had this same feeling. They had travelled for an entire day with throngs of people after a feast in Jerusalem when they realized that they were missing something very valuable. They had left their son, Jesus, back in Jerusalem. It took them three days of sorrow and diligent searching to find Him.
Luke 2:43-46 “And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him. And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple…”
As I think of this story, I think of how it can relate to us. How often have we supposed the Lord was in our company, when in reality, we lost, or left His presence along the way? As I read this passage, I see a few reasons we might leave the Lord behind and not even know it.
First, we can simply suppose he’s in our company. Our closeness to the Lord isn’t something we can take for granted. It’s not a passive thing. It’s something we must proactively seek each day.
Secondly, we can lose the Lord’s presence when we’re busy. Busyness may be one of the biggest enemies of our having the Lord’s presence, because we get so preoccupied with it that we don’t realize that His presence has gone missing.
Thirdly, we can lose His presence even as we’re doing good things. We were told often that the easiest place to backslide is on staff or in Bible college. Good things can replace God’s presence in our lives if we’re not careful, and it’s easy to think that one is the other, when it’s not.
Another reason we leave the Lord behind is when we’re out of routine. Even if we have more time, when we’re out of routine, like we are now with all going on, we can get away from the Lord’s presence.
So then, how do we get back to closeness with the Lord? First, Jesus parents realized that He was not there. We must do a regular assessment and ask, “how is my closeness to the Lord today”. Where is He? How is He working in my life today? Secondly, they made diligent search. They were not going to stop until they found Him. Thirdly, they retraced their steps. Generally speaking, if we trace our steps backward, we’ll realize where and when we lost the Lord’s presence and His intimate working in our lives. And finally, they found Him.
After calling around, contacting dispatch, tracing that shuttle bus, and by God’s grace, getting in contact with the driver himself, what a relief it was to find my backpack, with all the contents still inside, and have it back in our hands! Likewise, it’s even more refreshing to know that I’ve once again found God’s presence, and that closeness I once knew, and see Him again working personally in my life.