Behind & Before

Summer is fast-approaching and while it is a time of rest and relaxation, it can also be a season of great change and transition for some. I was reminded of this as I sat at the youth group banquet where we honored the seniors within our own GRC community who are graduating and entering new chapters of their lives. We also have those who are moving, like our beloved Son family who is moving to the Middle East to serve the Lord.

These transitions can be filled with a complicated mix of both excited anticipation and fear of the unknown. This combination is something I remember all too well from our own transition in 2015, when the Lord provided an opportunity for our family to move from Philadelphia to do Business as Mission in Israel. A passage the Lord continually brought to mind through the ups and downs of that transition was Psalm 139:1-6, in particular verse 5: “You hem me in, behind and before, and lay Your hand upon me.”

Psalm 139 as a whole is described by James Montgomery Boice as being both “head and heart,”in that it encompasses important doctrines such as God’s omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence, but it is also wonderfully personal. It is this unique combination of truths about our all-knowing God and how He is very personal in His care and provision for us that I found (and still find) comfort when faced with change and unknowns.

“He hems me in from behind”

This meant as I was leaving a place of familiarity and comfort, I could look back on the countless ways He had been faithful in providing for my every need. Moses warns the Israelites in Deuteronomy 6:12, “take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” How easily I could forget that it is the Lord who had brought me thus far, and not hard work or luck. Instead, I had to consistently remind my heart of my dependence upon Him along with His faithful provision for me.

“He hems me in from before”

This meant that as I began life in a new place, I could look ahead to all the unknowns and know the same Lord who had watched over and provided for me thus far had already made provision for my future (Phil 4:19). Being unfamiliar meant that I also felt a loss of control; yet there was immense comfort in knowing that my sovereign God knew and had every aspect of my life under His control, therefore I didn’t need to be afraid. Because even if the worst of my fears came true, I knew the Lord was with me and would walk with me through it (Isaiah 41:10).

“He lays His hand upon me”

Charles Spurgeon in his commentary says God laying His hand upon us is as if “our heavenly Father has folded his arms around us, and caressed us with His hand.” In the midst of our transition (which took almost two years), in my helplessness I would be made aware of my dependence upon the Lord. And true to His nature, He would lovingly reassure me of His nearness and presence, through daily reminders from His Word.

I am no longer in a season of transition, but I still find these truths comforting in times of difficulty. Whether we or someone we know is facing a change in life, may we be reminded of being surrounded by our Father lovingly hemming us in behind and before.


Christa Venugopal and her family have been members of GRC since 2021.