As a follower of Christ, I’ve often asked, “God why do you seem far away from me?” If you’re not a follower of Christ that may not be a question you’ve ever asked; but for those of us who are, we wonder, “Why does God seem far away?”
Here’s a question to consider, “Have you at some point in your life believe that you’ve felt the presence of God?
I asked some people recently, “If you’ve felt the presence of God, how do you know when you feel God’s presence?”
One person said, “I got a tingly sensation!”
Another said, “I was overcome with emotion and I cried in response to what I believe is the presence of God.”
One person said, “There’s a presence of something that is bigger than myself that I can’t describe”
I believe that God can give you any of those feelings and infinitely more feelings than we can ever even describe. But the truth also is, even though God can make you feel tingly, so can sitting next to a girl you like in a movie theatre. Even though God can make you cry, so can cutting onions! Just as God can give you a warm sensation, so can going to the bathroom in a swimming pool! It doesn’t mean I’ve done that because everybody knows that if you do it the water will turn blue around you! At least that’s what they told me when I was growing up.
If you don’t always feel God’s presence; you’re not alone.
Believe it or not the writers of the Bible express this frustration with raw and real feelings. There are many different verses in the Bible about this topic, but here’s one from Psalm 88 that is particularly strong,
13 I cry to you for help, O LORD; in the morning my prayer comes before you.
14 Why, O LORD, do you reject me and hide your face from me? Psalm 88:13-14 (NIV)
The first shocking fact, the author of this psalm is a worship leader! He’s devoted his life to worshiping God and leading others to do the same. He’s praying in morning. He’s is crying out, “Why can’t I feel you God? Where are you when I need you? I don’t sense that you’re near God, why is it that I can’t feel your presence?” Later in verse 18 he says, “Darkness is my closest friend.” Now that’s an honest expression to God. I hope you can be that real in conversation to God. He can handle it, let it out.
Let’s wrestle with this question, “why does God sometimes seem far away?” I won’t be able to give a specific reason for everyone. What I would like to do is to ask you five different Biblical questions that I ask myself. They may also be for you reasons as to why you might not feel the presence of God.
The first question,
- Do I think God’s presence must be super sensational?
For me, on my faith journey in college there were times when I thought God’s presence had to be super sensational. When I was 21 years of age I went with some friends to a charismatic church. For those of you that aren’t from the church world, a charismatic church is typically a church where people are really excited about God! Sometimes they speak in tongues or they’re jumping up and down, and some of them have their own little dance or a banner they run around with. It’s like everybody drank two cans of Red Bull before they came to church! I was very intrigued by this. There was something about their excitement that I’d never experienced in my Baptist Church growing up. We sang verses one, two and four of Hymns, everyone was stiff as a board, you never raised your hands and dancing was a sin!
Because I wasn’t used to moving and expressing myself in the ways people at a charismatic church did, I began to question if God was really working in my life. What’s interesting is that God had been clearly speaking to me through His Word, in bible studies in churches I attended. But because I didn’t respond like others at a particular church I questioned, “Do I really experience God’s presence?” Or is something missing for me?”
Like I did at one time, perhaps you’re looking for something really big and dramatic to move you. Or maybe you think you need some massive sign from God. “God, if this is really you, may lighting strike right now so I’ll know that you’re leading me to do this!”
This isn’t uncommon. We can see it in the New Testament when the crowds of people were asking Jesus in John 6:30,
“What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you?”
Some people define God’s presence with something they either see or feel in big way. “Oh God, do something big, help me see it!” Shake the room and give me, the James Earl Jones voice: “I am your father!”
Maybe you’re still waiting for a “quiver in your liver” or some electrical charge to come over you. I believe that sometimes God’s presence will be very strong. Other times it may calm you with a peace that goes beyond our human ability to even understand.
A passage that I love about God’s presence is found in I Kings 19:11-13. The prophet Elijah was looking for God’s presence. “There came great and powerful wind that tore the mountains apart, but God was not in the wind. There was an earthquake, but God was not in the earthquake. Then a fire, but God was not in the fire. After that came a gentle whisper. God spoke in a gentle whisper.”
Why don’t I always feel God’s presence? Maybe like I me, you have thought God’s presence must be super sensational like an earthquake but he’s actually in the gentle whisper.
For David, God was there “in the valley of the shadow of death”- Psalm 23:4. Jonah experienced God, “when my life was ebbing away” – Jonah 2:7. Job experienced God’s presence went he lost everything.
I think when I am hurting and broken hearted, I experience God’s presence the best. “ The LORD is close to the brokenhearted.” Psalm 34:18 (NIV) It’s gentle not sensational.
I no longer need a big miracle to believe in God, His presence in my hurt is enough, His whisper through His word is all I need. Sometimes I may not feel him, but that’s okay too, it doesn’t mean he’s not there. I pray that you experience God’s presence whether it’s super sensational from time to time or just a gentle whisper, “I love you.”
In the next post, we’ll examine the next four questions about why we don’t always feel God’s presence.
For more about the series, Great Questions please visit, www.RidgeFellowship.com