The question of the presence of God - is he here or not - has long been a fascinating topic for me. I think it's a very important question. We often assume God's presence and approval of our worship and ministries, and I wonder if that's wise. Is there evidence to support our assumption?
On the one hand, we have to say of course God is present. God is present everywhere and at all times. He can't not be present with us. Scripture is clear on the belief in God's omnipresence (Psalm 139, for example).
Yet, there are other passages, places that make our omnipresent belief stop in puzzlement. For example, David pleaded that God not withdraw from him (Psalm 51). And in Exodus 33, Moses pleads with God to go into the land with the Israelites. He says God's presence with them is essential. And then there is the profoundly disturbing experience of Jesus on the cross.
So, on the one hand, it appears that God is everywhere and always present. That's the theological principal, at least. Still, there are times when, if he's present, our awareness of his presence, or our sensitivity to his presence is somehow hindered. It's as if God is hiding from us.
Many through the years have written in anguish of God's silence and apparent absence from them. David was the first and most notable. I used to struggle with God's silence in my life. I could find no evidence that he was anywhere near, and he seemed to have lost my address and phone number. But I have learned better.
God is indeed everywhere and always present to us. No exceptions. But we are not always sensitive to that fact. After some long struggles, one day it came to me that I was upset because of a misconception: If God said he would never leave me or forsake me, and if his lavishly abundant love is never ending, then he must be present with me. He must be.
The problem comes in my believing that he is there, even when there is no evidence that I can sense, and in my living by that belief. I need to "turn my radio on," I the words of the old gospel song, and be sensitive to God's presence, rather than charging blindly onward, through the fog, thinking I'm lost and alone.
The problem is not that God is not present. He is. The problem is that he isn't playing by my rules, and I haven't learned his rules. But his rules are consistent with reality, with truth. Mine are a sad caricature of that.
So now, when I don't sense his presence, I don't despair. I find it a little humorous, even, and say, "God, I know you're there. No use pretending with me. I know you're with me."
The focus now is not deciding if God is present with me - it's sort of presumptuous that I would make that decision, isn't it? The focus now is to learn to be sensitive to the spirits, mine and his, and to celebrate and enjoy God's companionship and friendship.
He really is here. He really does delight in being with us. And we really do miss a great and wonderful part of life by not celebrating that.