This world is a big place. Billions and billions of us dot the planet. Where I live, it’s mostly an uninterrupted string of homes and buildings with millions of people inside, lining the hundreds of miles from LA to San Diego. If I lived in a more densely populated city, those buildings would be jammed wall-to-wall and ceiling-to-floor, with too many people crammed into too little space for miles and miles and miles.
As I stare blankly at the math of it all—7.23 billion people in the world, with roughly 189,000 added to the planet today alone—it’s pretty much incomprehensible. I have trouble just understanding the number of folks on the 405 freeway at rush hour. How can I begin to process the thought of 1,087 people per square kilometer in Bangladesh?
In the face of those numbers, it’s easy to convince myself that I’m pretty much nothing—that in the vast scheme of things I am not much more than a microscopic speck in the middle of the vast Sahara. The Psalmist inquired: “What is man, that thou art mindful of him?” (Psalm 8:4)—to which I feel to add: “Yeah. Exactly.”
One time, Moses saw all of this and more within a vision—“And it came to pass that Moses looked, and beheld the world upon which he was created; and Moses beheld the world and the ends thereof, and all the children of men which are, and which were created”—after which he (reasonably) exclaimed: “Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing” (Moses 1:8–10).
And yet there are moments when, almost unawares, I begin to feel like the entire universe is condensing down as if seen through a magnificent zoom lens. Moments when I feel as if the world is little more than the space within the reach of my outstretched arm. Moments like this one—sitting in this chair, at this desk, here in this empty room— when something I’ve just read triggers something I now feel, and I know all over again that God not only knows me but He is aware of my immediate, pressing needs. Moments when I know it as clearly as I know that the sun is hitting my face when I walk outside on a warm spring morning.
I cannot possibly do the math. And yet I know.