Perception of God's Presence
Psalms 121: 8
the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.
Often when I am in a “study” of God’s Word I experience a greater closeness and sense of God’s presence in my life. I also experience God’s amazing presence not only during my times of prayer and worship... but during the most trying and desperate times of my life too. When I experience the presence of God, I am blessed to find great comfort and security…and these experiences have increased my desire to be with Him more and more. I have even grown to anticipate His presence whenever I turn to Him… in both good times and bad.
Unfortunately, many of us may perceive God’s presence as being near or distant based on our incorrect thinking that “we have control” over His presence in our life. Maybe like me you have gone through a time when you thought that how we behave or the things we say and do are what controls God’s presence in our lives. I have met many believers whose understanding of our Heavenly Father’s favor is linked to their understanding of an earthly father’s favor. When our understanding is like that…we actually expect God to reward us with His favor and presence when our behavior is “good” and to withhold His favor and presence when our behavior is “bad”.
Many are able to accept God’s silence when it is felt that we deserved it or are able to acetain a logical reason for it…but what do we expect when we have been obedient and trusting? If we think we have some level of “control” concerning how God should respond to us, doesn’t our obedience and trust create an expectation for a “reward” from God? The reward we seek may be a heartfelt desire for His presence to be apparent to us. Unconsciously perhaps, we conclude that if we are faithful in prayer and giving praise to God…shouldn’t God be faithful to us by providing us with His presence?
After all… it is by (our perception of) His presence that we are able to remain encouraged or be comforted and to find strength. Isn’t our faithfulness to Him deserving of our perceiving His presence with us? Because God loves us, His presence should always be ours…right?
Ok… maybe not…but the question still remains…why is it that God would choose to be silent and even “distant” during our faithful times of seeking, needing and even anticipating His Presence?
What happens to our faith, our trust and our hope in God, when God is silent and distant? How should we respond when we feel distance from God at a time when we expect to feel His presence...especially during the desperate times when we are in great need of sensing…of experiencing the closeness of God? Have you also had times like me when you need a Word from Him…you need His presence so as to feel His comfort? Why would God ever not make His presence known to His faithful child who is in need of Him? What is happening when God is silent…distant…when our perception of His presence is “void”? Is this even possible?
Of course,like you I have experienced His “silence” during times I understood to be God’s way of calling me to be still and to wait. Although it is difficult to do this as we seek God’s Will in a prayed for situation... especially the ones that seem pretty urgent to us…most of us can relate and even “accept” this kind of silence from God.
But what about the times when God’s silence leads to experiencing His discernable absentness? This happened to me a couple of years ago… when I needed most to feel Jesus’ presence. I had been faithful…relying on Him completely…yet, only silence was heard and His presence unfelt...and it lasted for several days. Where was God then…?
Praise God!I have His Word to answer my cry for understanding. The Bible has many accounts of God not being “perceived” as present or near to His faithful children. In fact the bible is full of examples of God’s perceived abandonment… some of the faithful servants of God who experienced God’s “distance” are;
Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Job… Martha and Mary, Lazarus…Paul…and yes…even Jesus on the cross.
All experienced God’s distance and silence…during times they needed God the most to be near, God’s presence was not known by them. It is from their experience we all will find what our response can be.
For me the Book of Psalms is one of the best books in the bible to describe the feelings of perceived closeness and also distance of God. It is perhaps the one book above all others that has lifted, comforted and carried me to a better understanding that God’s ways are way beyond my understanding.
The psalmist who wrote Psalms 44 is speaking of those who were devoted to God and yet experienced a perceived abandonment by God. The theme of this psalm is; a plea for victory by the battle-weary and defeated; and remembering God’s past deliverance and to be confident that he will restore you.
Psalm 44: 6-11, 17-26
6 I do not trust in my bow,
my sword does not bring me victory;
7 but you give us victory over our enemies;
you put our adversaries to shame.
8 In God we make our boast all day long,
and we will praise your name forever.
9 But now you have rejected and humbled us;
you no longer go out with our armies.
10 You made us retreat before the enemy,
and our adversaries have plundered us.
11 You gave us up to be devoured like sheep
and have scattered us among the nations.
17 All this happened to us,
though we had not forgotten you
or been false to your covenant.
18 Our hearts had not turned back;
our feet had not strayed from your path.
19 But you crushed us and made us a haunt for jackals
and covered us over with deep darkness.
20 If we had forgotten the name of our God
or spread out our hands to a foreign god,
21 would not God have discovered it,
since he knows the secrets of the heart?
22 Yet for your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.
23 Awake, O Lord! Why do you sleep?
Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever.
24 Why do you hide your face
and forget our misery and oppression?
25 We are brought down to the dust;
our bodies cling to the ground.
26 Rise up and help us;
redeem us because of your unfailing love.
Israel had been defeated despite their faith (44:17) and obedience (44:18) to God. The psalmist could not understand why God had allowed this to happen, but he did not give up hope of discovering the answer (44:17-22). Although he felt his suffering was undeserved, he revealed the real reason for it: he suffered because he was committed to the Lord. Paul quoted the psalmist’s complaint (Romans 8:36) to show that we must always be ready to face death for the cause of Christ. Thus, our suffering may not be a punishment at all… but a battle scar that demonstrates our loyalty.
The same psalmist wrote Psalms 46. Although the perception of God’s abandonment was expressed earlier, he reveals the heart that still trust in God. The theme is; God is always there to help, provide refuge, security, and peace. God’s power is complete and his ultimate victory is certain. He will not fail to rescue those who love him.
Psalm 46:1-5, 10-11
1 God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
5 God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day. Selah
10 "Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth."
11 The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Although our next Psalm is written by another author…it completes perfectly the results of our remaining steadfast in faith, regardless of what we perceive as God’s distance or abandonment. The theme is: God answers prayer. Individually and as a body of believers, we should praise and worship God.
Psalms 66: 8-12, 16-20
8 Praise our God, O peoples,
let the sound of his praise be heard;
9 he has preserved our lives
and kept our feet from slipping.
10 For you, O God, tested us;
you refined us like silver.
11 You brought us into prison
and laid burdens on our backs.
12 You let men ride over our heads;
we went through fire and water,
but you brought us to a place of abundance.
16 Come and listen, all you who fear God;
let me tell you what he has done for me.
17 I cried out to him with my mouth;
his praise was on my tongue.
18 If I had cherished sin in my heart,
the Lord would not have listened;
19 but God has surely listened
and heard my voice in prayer.
20 Praise be to God,
who has not rejected my prayer
or withheld his love from me!
When you're asking God why…and asking “where are You LORD”? When you are surrounded by darkness and you cannot perceive the presence of God in your days of trouble or despair…ignore the lies you “perceive” of God having left you alone…We can always depend upon God for help. We will surely travel through lonely times in this life before reaching our heavenly destination.
"I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them."
So for me, I keep my hope in God, knowing that my questions may not ever be answered here on earth. Each day I make a point to look beyond my situation to the only all-knowing God of Truth, who will not leave me nor fail me. I continue to learn about His attributes and cling to them in hope. The path of life that I am now traveling is very different from what I expected or wanted, but Jesus guides me.
As I once again experience God’s daily presence, I no longer take it for granted…so perhaps His purpose was for this reason alone… God’s presence is not ours to conger up or dismiss as we need Him or desire Him. Wonderfully, God’s presence is not affected at all by what we perceive it to be either...…Our God…He is always with us.
Song: GOD of My Days by Zach Neese /
My Prayer is from lyrics of God of My Days
You are the God of my days, the King of my nights
Lord of my laughter, sovereign in sorrow
You are the Prince of my praise, the love of my life
You never leave me, You are faithful, God of my days.
You unveil my eyes, help me to see
The arms of my Father encircling me
You are a constant companion, I am never alone
Your love is the banner that is leading me home.
I trust that every moment’s in Your hands.
My eyes are on you, my hope is in you.
My faith is in you .You are the God of my days and King of my nights.
I love you Jesus,