Is the Presence of God Still There, Even if You Can't Feel It?
One reason why it’s difficult for unbelievers to place faith in God is because of His invisible quality. And yet, those of us who are in Christ have sensed the presence of God with us and have witnessed His hand at work. The Apostle Peter comments on this in 1 Peter 1:8 (1:7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Christ the Saviour: KOKB.) when he said, “You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. ”But we often face seasons that challenge our faith. Trials that cause us to doubt God’s nearness.
Are these harsh circumstances of living proof that God has abandoned us? And how can we trust that His presence is not merely a figment of our imagination?
What Is the Presence of God?
In the Old Testament, God’s presence could only be made manifest in His dwelling place. It was there that His children could meet with God and have fellowship with Him.
It was so sacred, in fact, that Moses refused to journey to the promised land without God’s presence (Exodus 33:15). He knew it was the only way to survive the journey through the wilderness. So, Moses followed God’s instructions on how to build the Tabernacle. It’s here that God’s presence strengthened them and provided them with rest (Exodus 33:14).
God’s presence is His dwelling among us. Exodus 25:8 says, “Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them.”
Later, when Jesus stepped onto the scene, He came to dwell among us in the flesh. John 1:14 says, “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” The Greek word for “dwelt” is skenoo, which means “to live in a tent.”
So God’s presence dwelt among His people through the person of Jesus Christ.
When Jesus died on our behalf, Mark 15:37 tells us that “the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.”
This is wonderful news! The sound of that curtain being torn is the sound of God inviting us to restore our intimacy with Him. It’s the sound of barriers being torn down. It’s the sound of us being invited to enter God’s presence.When Jesus left His disciples for the final time, He promised to be with us always (Matthew 28:20). He also said, “But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you” (John 16:7).
The Advocate is the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus left to comfort His disciples.
Do you see how this played out? First, the Tabernacle was the original dwelling place for God’s presence, and then Jesus became our Tabernacle in the flesh. When He departed from earth, He left this dwelling through the power of the Holy Spirit.
And it’s through the Holy Spirit that God’s presence now abides within all believers today:
“Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God?” 1 Corinthians 6:19a.
“And what union can there be between God’s temple and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God said: ‘I will live in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people’” 2 Corinthians 6:16.
Why Is God's Presence Important?
Why was Moses so desperate for God’s presence to accompany them on their journey to the Promised Land?
It wasn’t merely so they could attain the benefits of His presence. Rather, it was so they could commune with the Person behind the presence.
Exodus 33:11 says, “Inside the Tent of Meeting, the Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.”You see, this is the communion we receive in God’s presence. It’s this fellowship that Adam and Eve enjoyed in the Garden of Eden, too, before the taint of sin banished mankind from God’s holy presence.
But God sent His Son to restore us into that initial relationship with our Heavenly Father. God longs for us to enter His presence! He wants to meet us face to face, just as He did with Moses, and to approach life by His side rather than be independent of Him.
After Jesus departed from earth, the Holy Spirit equipped the disciples to further the Gospel by empowering them with boldness. Before then, when Jesus was still on earth, these disciples were rather timid, don’t you think?
It was God’s presence within them that marked this transformation.
If we, too, hope to further God’s kingdom, then we need to be empowered by the same boldness.
Acts 4:13 says, “The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus.”
If we enter God’s presence, we can be seen as special people who have been with Jesus as well. But without God’s presence, we risk blending in with the rest of the world:
“Then Moses said, ‘If you don’t personally go with us, don’t make us leave this place. How will anyone know that you look favorably on me—on me and on your people—if you don’t go with us? For your presence among us sets your people and me apart from all other people on the earth” Exodus 33:15-16.How Do You Know the Presence of God—Qualities of His Presence
Comforts us in times of trouble and loneliness:
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” Psalm 23:4.
Empowers us with confidence to further our calling:
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” Isaiah 41:10.
“King David said this about him: ‘I see that the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me” Acts 2:25.
Assures us of His perfect love:
“So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” 1 John 4:16.
Stills our anxious hearts, offering divine rest and refreshment:
“And he said, ‘My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest’” Exodus 33:14.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” Matthew 11:28.
“That times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord...” Acts 3:20a.
Ushers us into freedom:
“For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” 2 Corinthians 3:17.
Renews our hearts and minds:
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” Psalm 51:10.“‘Who can know the Lord’s thoughts? Who knows enough to teach him?’ But we understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ” 1 Corinthians 2:16.
Reminds us of His sovereignty:
“Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty. Everything in the heavens and on earth is yours, O Lord, and this is your kingdom. We adore you as the one who is over all things” 1 Chronicles 29:11.
“In the shelter of your presence you hide them from all human intrigues; you keep them safe in your dwelling from accusing tongues” Psalm 31:20.
“Surely you have granted him unending blessings and made him glad with the joy of your presence” Psalm 21:6.
“May God be merciful and bless us. May his face smile with favor on us” Psalm 67:1.
Fills us with joy:
“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” Psalm 16:11.
Do Feelings Factor in This?
It’s easy to feel God’s face shine upon us when life seems to be going smoothly, right?
But I’ve discovered that the sun is always shining, regardless of whether there are storm clouds blocking my view.
Just like the seasons of life, our feelings are ever-shifting. They’re unstable, an extension of our human nature. Yes, God created us with emotions for a purpose, and they are not bad within themselves—but we can’t always trust in them. We can only place our faith in the firm foundation of God’s Word because, unlike our emotions, it stands firm and forever (Psalm 119:89).
This means the promises of God’s presence is constant as well. The light of His presence still shines on us, even on those days when we see nothing but dark clouds. We are not called to live by feelings or even sight, but by faith alone (Romans 1:17; 2 Corinthians 5:7).
Sometimes, on days when I’ve lost sense of God’s nearness, it’s because I’ve become too distracted by the busyness of life.
And yet this is even more of a reason why we must prioritize our daily times with God.
It is there, in our private meetings with Him, that our faith, our inner spiritual man, becomes strengthened. It is there that we learn to apply Psalm 46:10, which tells us to “Be still, and know that I am God!”
Be still. Perhaps that alone is the secret to feeling God’s nearness—to cut away all distractions and to simply lift our gaze to our Father, magnifying His love, His beauty, and His goodness.
Let’s not be surprised if, during these times, our awareness of His presence increases. After all, Jeremiah 29:13 tells us that we will find Him when we seek Him with all our heart.
Another way we can sense God’s nearness is by praising Him. According to Psalms 22:3, God inhabits the praises of His people. Let’s “enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise,” as Psalm 100:4 instructs.
Then, as we go throughout our days, we can carry on our conversation with Him and “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Brother Lawrence, in his classic devotional, The Practice of the Presence of God, said, “To keep yourself in the actual presence of God, remain in habitual, silent, and secret conversation with God…”
God is not distant. Our feelings and circumstances should never cause us to doubt His constant nearness.
He is here.
We don’t need to strive to enter His presence. We don’t even need to feel anything. We don’t need to look the part or perform good deeds to gain His attention.
We are simply invited to crawl into His lap and draw near to Him.
This is the purpose by which we were created—to “dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple” (Psalm 27:4). We have the privilege of dwelling “in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:6)—from now and into eternity.
Just as Moses needed to meet with God on the journey to the Promised Land, we, too, need His presence if we are to carry out our assigned mission.
That will only be possible if we make it a priority to enter God’s Tabernacle. Not the one made by hands, of course, but the dwelling place that abides within.
Then, after spending time with God, perhaps we, too, will glow with the radiance of God’s presence—just like Moses did in Exodus 34:29-35. We will radiate with an otherworldly glow for all the world to see.
A glow that can only be made manifest in the light of God’s glorious presence.