Daniel loved his job and was devastated when he was laid off. At first, he thought he would pick up another job pretty quickly. But as time wore on he began to get concerned, then panicked, and finally he found himself in full distress. He feared that he would lose his home, that his wife would leave him, and that his children would lose respect for him.
Many of us find ourselves in equally stressful situations today. There is the constant threat of sickness, the loss of loved ones, joblessness, financial ruin, the fear of violence, and the ever-present isolation. It’s hard to feel God’s presence when you’re in a state of distress.
So, what exactly does God’s presence feel like? Is it a tingling, a state of euphoria, or maybe breathlessness? Is it internal, external, or both? And just how important is it to FEEL God’s presence?
I read a book written by an Adventist pastor (I wish I could remember the name of it) and he made the point that we must always look at the source of our feelings. According to the author, God works from the inside out. So, if your feelings are generated from what God is doing in you, then the feelings you have are spiritually safe. On the other hand, Satan uses external stimuli to produce feelings within us – he works from the outside in. We see an attractive person of the opposite sex and our thoughts and feelings start to go places we know are wrong. We get caught up in the outrage of injustices and we develop a hatred for the wrongdoers. We lose ourselves in the beat of the music and we are unaware of the true message being drilled into our hearts. We live in a society that has mastered the ability to externally stimulate feelings within us.
Yes, feelings can be deceiving. That’s why it’s important for us to live by faith and not by feelings. Daniel spent many hours each day in prayer, asking God to help him find another job. But no job was offered. At one point the despair was so intense that Daniel was tempted to give up on God. He couldn’t see God working, he couldn’t hear God’s voice reassuring him, and worst of all, he couldn’t feel God’s presence. He sat on his couch and thought it through, and finally decided it didn’t matter how bad things got, he was going to continue to have faith in God. He wasn’t going to give up on his relationship with God; he would continue to pray and read the Bible even if he felt all alone.
Had God actually left Daniel? It’s easy to feel abandoned by God when you don’t feel His presence. But God has told us in Matthew 28:20, that He will be with you always. Here’s what the SDA Bible Commentary says about this text: “I am with you alway. At first thought it seems strange that Jesus should make such an announcement as this when He was about to ascend to heaven and be parted, bodily, from His disciples until the day of His return in power and glory. However, by virtue of the gift of the Holy Spirit, Jesus would be closer to believers throughout the earth than would be possible had He remained bodily present (see John 16:7). The Scriptures make the presence of Christ real to every humble believer. Through the gift and guidance of the Holy Spirit, every disciple of the Master may find fellowship with Christ as did the disciples of old.”
We can see that God’s presence in our lives is actually the Holy Spirit residing in our hearts. And because of this, there are things we can do that help us realize that God is still right there with us.
Pray – Ask God to give you the assurance that He is with you through these tough times. Ask Him to fill you with the Holy Spirit and give Him total control of everything in your life. I have found it helpful to actually write my prayers out on paper, like a letter to God. The process of writing it out gives you time to formulate your thoughts as you’re writing.
Confess your sins to God. David too faced times of feeling God had left him. He wrote in Psalms 51:10 & 11, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.” It’s not that God leaves us, but rather that our guilt keeps us from connecting on our end. When we’ve asked for God’s forgiveness and submitted to His will, it often does wonders for reconnecting with Him.
Read scripture because it is the voice of God. One day, when Daniel was particularly depressed, he prayed that God would send him some reassurance. The Lord lead him to 1 Peter 1:3 – 7 (Msg), “What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now! God is keeping careful watch over us and the future. The Day is coming when you’ll have it all—life healed and whole. I know how great this makes you feel, even though you have to put up with every kind of aggravation in the meantime. Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine. When Jesus wraps this all up, it’s your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of his victory.”
Realize God’s plan for you is better than any plan you can come up with. Put it all in God’s hands. Yes, actually pray and tell God that you are giving the problem to Him to solve. Does this mean that all the troubles go away, and life will be all that we want. Well… it often does. But remember that God’s number one priority is your salvation, not necessarily your comfort.
Daniel didn’t get a job for over two years, but God had a different plan for taking care of Daniel and his family. That plan ended up teaching Daniel that he can one hundred percent trust God because it did things that just getting another job could never have done. And when he did get a job, it was the best job he’d ever had. He came to realize that he never had to worry about anything again – God had him. This brought a very special kind of peace to Daniel, a peace that comes from God’s presence.
The bottom line is that God wants to be right there with you through these tough times, but sometimes those tough things themselves make it hard for all of us to realize He’s there, right in the middle of it with us. As faith develops and our trust in Him grows, we find a peace in His presence that surpasses understanding, a peace that produces joy even in the midst of trouble.