The Shining Face of God

Sherri Shackel-Dorren, Volunteer Writer, Wheaton | March 8, 2024

“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” 
Nehemiah 6:24-26 

For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!
Romans 5:10

“…the joy of the Lord is your strength.” 
Nehemiah 8:10

It was a sunny day in the Loop. I had taken the train to meet a high school friend for lunch. It had been far too long since we’d seen one another. She was about a half block away when our eyes met. Even before we could wave, we broke into uncontainable smiles. The experience of seeing a treasured friend caused us to hold both our gaze and our smiles until we reached each other. According to neuroscientists, this type of joyful, face-to-face encounter evokes a smile within forty milliseconds, releasing pleasure-producing dopamine in our brains. This perpetuates our joyful smiling and further cycles of dopamine release. 

So, isn’t it interesting that God’s blessing to the Israelites is that His face would shine upon them? In the ancient Middle East, this phrase implied someone who exuded joy and happiness. Today, we might say that someone is so happy that they are beaming. Being face-to-face describes a personal relationship, a close relationship. For God’s people, His smile upon them was the greatest imaginable blessing, and with it came joy. 

What would it be like for you to wake up each morning knowing God was smiling at you? How strengthened would you feel knowing that the Creator of the entire universe was eager to do life with you? Does that seem too far-fetched or even impossible? If you find it hard to believe that God really does love and delight in you, remind yourself that it’s really not about you. God’s love is about Him. He can’t help himself. He made you for His delight. In his book How to Grow Joy, Marcus Warner writes, “The kind of inner joy that sustains you through hard times requires a ‘Happy-to-see-you’ God.” Not only that, but God is essentially saying the same thing. Open your imagination to His loving gaze. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you. Enjoy and rest as God’s face shines upon you. 

Next Steps

  1. Take time to look up Bible verses describing the Lord’s face shining upon His people. Then, prayerfully imagine God smiling upon you. Sit in the stillness of His loving gaze. Listen for His voice. Make this a frequent practice.
  2. Is there someone you enjoy? Spend some face-to-face time with that person. Ask God to shine His face through you to give them joy.
  3. Try waking up each morning to a Happy-to-see-you God. Commit to praying daily that the Lord would give you His joy to strengthen you.