Seeking Awareness of God’s Presence

Seeking Awareness of God’s Presence

Have you ever said or heard someone say, “I just don’t feel close to God right now”? How about, “I feel so far from God”? On the other side of that, when was the last you time you thought, “Wow, God is here”? One of the marks of spiritual growth is a constant sense of God’s abiding presence through the good and the bad in our lives. It’s that sense that Jacob felt when he said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it” (Gen. 28:16).

Here are some scary statistics: [1]

  • 68% of Protestants, Catholics, and self-professed Christians say that at some time in their life they felt God’s presence

  • Of all the Protestants, Catholics, and Christians surveyed, 13% of them felt God’s presence one or two times in their lives, and 32% felt they had never sensed his presence

  • 32% of those who claimed to be “born again Christians” had never felt God’s presence or had felt it only once or twice in their entire lives.

Did you get that? At some time … one or two times … never! That means that many Christians have only recognized God’s presence a few times in their lives or perhaps never.

This illustrates a great problem in our understanding of God. Where is God? He is everywhere! To not recognize his presence indicates that we feel that God is only present at certain points/places in our lives. Nothing can be further from the truth. God is constantly present! Don’t forget what the psalmist wrote: “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” (Ps. 139:7). The answer is nowhere!

When we become dull to God’s presence, we tend to think less often about him, we don’t read his word, and we don’t seek his will. We think less of restraining sin and less of doing good. Instead, we look back and forth to see if God is looking. When we don’t have a sense of his constant abiding presence, here’s what happens:

  • We seek pleasure in things other than God and justify our reasoning for it

  • Our relationship with him turns to just a religion

  • Spiritual disciplines are duties and obligations we need to check off our list

  • Worship is mandatory, not a privilege

God has revealed himself to us in a couple of ways. He has made himself known through creation (Rom. 1:20) and his word—both incarnate (Jesus) and written (the Bible). Therefore, it would make sense that we recognize God’s presence in both. When you look around you, do you see and feel God? Or do you simply walk through life without paying attention to God’s presence all around you? How about his word? Do you really believe that Jesus is with you to the very end of the age as he promised (Matt. 28:20)? Do you often read and meditate on Scripture to hear God’s voice? Every time you hear Scripture, God is talking. Do you listen? How will you ever hear God and develop intimacy with him if you rarely or never read his love letter?

Please realize that you are not less spiritual if you don’t feel God’s presence every moment. There are moments on our spiritual journey when God withdraws a conscious sense of his presence in order to test our faithfulness to him (the Puritans called these “God desertions”). He’s still there, but we struggle to feel him. These are the desert moments. These are the moments when we cry out as Jesus did, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” In these moments we often become abundantly aware of our need for a Savior and his abiding presence. As Donald Whitney says, “It’s one thing to long for a sense of God’s presence while not experiencing it, and another to live routinely with no awareness of his absence.” [2]

So, what we need to do is grow in our awareness of God’s daily presence. How? Whitney offers these four suggestions: [3]

  • Go often to the place where God has revealed himself most clearly—the Bible.

  • Acknowledge his presence with you by talking with him (pray often).

  • Seek him in the manifestations of his presence given only in congregational worship.

  • Continually reaffirm the truth that he is omnipresent.

The point is, recognize that God is present at all times in all places. Become more and more aware of that presence. Don’t fall into the trap of living as if there is a dichotomy between the secular and the sacred. As if God is present when we are at church or on retreats or serving the poor, but not when we’re sitting at work or going to the movies or out mowing the lawn. We need to live our lives wholly. We love God with all we are and become aware of his presence in everything we do, every place we visit, and every person we meet. When we grow in this sense of his abiding presence (through the good and the bad) then we can know that we are being formed into the image of Christ, who lived constantly in his Father’s presence.

Try something for a moment. Take some time and read the descriptions of God and the texts that accompany them below. Then, take out a piece of paper and write down what you are feeling or your response to that description of God and his presence in your life. Then, spend some time in prayer before him. God bless you as you continually seek him and his presence.

God’s location – God’s nature or action – Biblical texts

God BEYOND us – transcendence – Ps. 8

God BEFORE us – creation – Acts 17:24-28

God TO us – the incarnation – John 1:1-2, 14; Phil. 2:5-8

God FOR us – the cross – Rom. 8:31-39

God NEAR us – companion – Ps. 139:1-14, 17-18, 23-24

God WITH us – human – Heb. 2:14-18, 4:14-16

God IN us – Holy Spirit as comforter – John 14:15-18, 23-27

God OVER us – Lord – Isa. 25:1-9

[1] Donald S. Whitney, Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2001), 56-57.

[2] Whitney, Ten Questions, 63.

[3] Whitney, Ten Questions, 64-66.

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