When God Seems Remote

I was my big brothers’ TV remote.

I can still hear their call. Through the bleaching heat waves of Kansas, over the baked and cracked ground, their summons reached me. Underfoot brown farm grass crunched crispy-fried. An adoring mutt panted at my side, his long tongue hung red and wet. I loved being outside in the hot stillness of the day.

Our white clapboard house crowned the gentle peak where it sat, too bright to look at in the blazing sun. I circled the hill peddling my Schwinn until it flew in the air, over the slope and onto the flat part of the yard. 

“Sylvia,” I heard my brother’s call from inside. It hung in the heavy air as I passed the crest, free flying over the rolling slope.

Maybe I was naive, or maybe I just simply adored those three bigger brothers, but I fell for it over and over.

“Sylvia, we need you!”

I dropped my blue bike and ran to the porch door, pulled it open and catapulted into a dim room where drawn shades and cool air contrasted with the outside.

Three young farmhands, my scrappy older brothers, sprawled in the room where the TV sat. Their eyes never left the screen.

“We need you to turn the channel,” my oldest brother said.

Slightly out of breath, I walked to the set and flicked the knob to one of three possibilities.

I was the TV remote. It was part of childhood’s lazy hazy days of summer and sibling dominance. I didn’t really mind. The hot days generally weren’t all that lazy for my brothers on the farm. But, sometimes midday was just too hot to be on a tractor, and besides, that little amazing device with which we change channels from distant comfortable couches today, hadn’t yet been invented.

It was Psalm 136 that reminded me of my once-upon-a-time remote job which brought me into the house, a few measly feet away from the TV.

“For His mercy endures forever,” the Psalmist proclaims not once, but in every one of the twenty-six verses of the Psalm. The Psalm recounts the history of God and His acts and relationship with His people, and with each one listed, comes the confirmation, “For His mercy endures forever.”    

Hesed,” is one of my favorite words in the tiny bit of Old Testament Hebrew I’ve gathered. Some translations read “steadfast love,” “lovingkindness,” or “faithful love.”  It’s a beautiful concept that our English language can’t quite do justice with in its translations. It’s translated throughout the Old Testament in a variety of ways. Passages express it as “mercy,” “lovingkindness,” “goodness,” “steadfast love,” and “faithfulness.”  But hesed encompasses all of them stirred together in one wonderful description.

When the Psalmist wrote Psalm 136 he must have been simply wonder-struck by God’s good-merciful-lovingkindness-steadfast-love-and-faithfulness. And it spilled over every act of God listed in the Psalm. It confirmed that God was not remote in His dealings with His people then, and it reminds me neither is He in our personal history and daily life today. Regardless of what I see, despite what I may feel.   

We live distant lives today. Remote.

Remote is defined as located far away, distant, hidden or secluded.

It is a pretty good picture of us.

Together, yet apart. Remote. It shapes our work, shopping, church attendance, and relationships. So much of life can now be done at a distance. We are able to stand shoulder to shoulder, yet remain trained on a tiny screen in front of our noses.

In the Garden of Eden, man’s relationship with God was a close one. They walked and talked together until sin separated man from God’s holiness.

Psalm 136 reminds us that God has been present throughout all of history, and in the moving of time and events, “His mercy endures forever.”

God chose His people one by one to carry on His covenant. His finger wrote His commands on stone. He instituted rules and regulations so man and God could fellowship together. He built a tabernacle to dwell with His people. He pitched His tent among us.

And He sent Jesus, Immanuel, God With Us to be the perfect payment for our sins. The cross forever bridged “remote.”

We have a lot of remotes in our home like everyone else does.The cross forever bridged “remote.” Share on X

Sometimes I’m guilty of holding God at a distance, a bit like a big brother to a little sister, as if He functioned as my personal remote. I complain when He doesn’t respond as I think He ought. I allow my needs to dictate the distance between us.

As I grew older, I began to balk at my brother’s calls. Their demands shrunk to the “Hey, while you’re up, turn the channel,” variety.

I’d roll my eyes and exaggerate the imposition.

Aren’t you glad our mercy-lovingkindness-faithfulness-goodness God is not remote? He is not distant, but present, interactive and always steadfast.


9 Replies

  1. Katherine Pasour Reply

    Oh, I laughed when I read about you rushing in at your brother’s call–only to discover they were too lazy to change the channel. As the youngest of five, I remember those days of being a servant to my older siblings, but it wasn’t quite to the extreme of your example. I’m with you, we are so blessed that our Father is never remote.

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      It was wonderful to see you again friend! I’m kind of happy to hear our growing up experiences were similar, and grateful along with you for the nearness of our Father.

  2. Susan Bliss Reply

    Brian was the youngest & years apart from his siblings so he laid on the floor & used his toes to change the channel. 😆 Great article Sylvia & we miss you here in Missouri! 🤗

  3. J.D. Wininger Reply

    I’ve learned that God is only as remote as we make Him, my friend. What a great post. Wanna come turn the channel for me? Of course, you’d have to turn the TV on too. I only watch David Jeremiah on Sunday mornings any more. LOL

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      I will not turn the channel. Final. But, I thank you so much for reading and how I appreciate hearing from you J. D.

  4. Sharon Reply

    Amen & Amen!!

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      I always appreciate you taking the time to read my post, and love knowing you did!!