It is always a pleasure when we visit those we love and cherish. We long to extend our stay with them as much as we can and it is always with reluctance that we eventually say our goodbyes.
When it comes to our relationship with God, if you are like me, I am sure there are times when you wonder if God is present in your life. This often happens when we are faced with challenging situations and circumstances and we question where God is in all of this. The good news is that you are not alone.
There were times when the Psalmist asked the same question. In Psalm 13: 1-2, the writer laments and wonders why God has forgotten him and allowing him to go through the sorrows and pain he was experiencing. In the next two verses however, he turned his complaint into a prayer of petition and in the last two verses, he realises that even when God seems distant, He wants us to trust Him and as we do, He opens our eyes to see His plan and purpose for our lives.
One thing I have learnt during the many years of my Christian walk is that He never leaves. There are times we don't sense His presence not because His is no longer there but because of other reasons that we will try to examine here.
Sin - This is a no-brainer. Our God is a holy God. If there is one thing He cannot see, it is sin. As Jesus hung on the cross at Calvary, with the sin of the world borne on his shoulders, the Father had to His face away from the Son. Jesus sensed this and cried out, "My God, My God , why have you forsaken me" (Matthew 27:46) When we have sin in our lives, it is impossible to experience the presence of God no matter how much we desire it. The good new is that there is something we can do. The operative word is 'repent'. To repent is not merely feeling sorry for what we have done but a being sorry enough to actively turn away from it.
Forgiving others - This is one area many of us struggle. We often question, "How can I forgive someone who stole from me, who caused me so much pain and sorrow?" I wish I can tell you it is easy to forgive, but it is not. However, it is a command Jesus gave us which we must obey if we want to walk in God's presence. It is interesting that immediately after teaching the disciples how to pray in Mathew 6:9-13, the next thing Jesus says in verse 14 is, "If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins".
Forgiving Yourself - Sometimes, it is a lot easier to forgive others than to forgive ourselves. This is one area I personally struggle. When I wrong others, I am quite quick to seek forgiveness and do all I can to write the wrong. Afterwards, I tend to beat myself up and wondering why I allowed myself to be led into doing the thing that hurt other people. The funny thing is that I continue to do this long after the people I wronged have actually forgotten about me and have moved on. Forgiving ourselves is a key to enjoying God's presence because as long as we continue to agonise over our shortcomings - even the ones we have been forgiven for, we will not be able to fully enjoy the presence of God in our lives.
Putting God First - (Mark 12:28) We lead busy lives due to the demands on us. We have bills to pay, family to take of, deadlines to meet as well as obligations to other individuals and groups. It is so easy for us to get bogged down by all of these and push God to the back burner and only reach out to Him when the going gets tough. **We need to reverse that trend and put God back where He belongs - the centre of our lives.**
Be Vigilant - "Be careful—watch out for attacks from Satan, your great enemy. He prowls around like a hungry, roaring lion, looking for some victim to tear apart. 9 Stand firm when he attacks. Trust the Lord; and remember that other Christians all around the world are going through these sufferings too." (1 Peter 5: 8 & 9)
Our enemy utilises two main strategies when he launches attacks against us. The first strategy is to make us feel secure and invincible especially when we have recently experienced a great success. If we take our eyes off the Lord, we soon find ourselves in the firing line with no hiding place and if care is not taken, we end up receiving injury except if by the grace of God we are able to change tact and refocus
The other strategy is to isolate us. This is more common with experienced Christians. We feel unable to share our struggles because we think by doing so, many who have been looking up to use will feel discouraged or the ones who respected us because of our strong faith will no longer do so. That is very far from the truth! This is where the enemy wants us to be. To isolate us and make us feel there is no way out!
Peter reminds us in the verse above that others are going through the same things were are going through so you need to stand firm and trust the Lord. We need to ask others in the family of God to stand with us. When we pray together, we provide support, strength and encouragement to one another. This is the attitude that produces the presence of God among His people. We should not underestimate the enemy but neither should we over-estimate him. It is enough to be aware that he exists and that he is dangerous. However we should be encouraged in the knowledge that Jesus has overcome the enemy and has given the Church the power to overcome too!
Rely on God always - No matter how brilliant or successful we are, it is a grave mistake to rely on our intelligence. Brilliant people have done the most foolish things that ended their lives while those the world deem ignorant have gone on to do amazing things to change the world. Jesus could have chosen people schooled in the Torah. He could have chosen his disciples from among the scribes and teachers of the law but He decided to choose fishermen who comprised of more than half of His team. He knew that these ones would need to rely on Him to carry out the mission he gave to them and what an impact they made in the world! No wonder they were accused of turning the world up-side down! (Acts 17:6) As we rely on God, we can be sure that He will open our eyes to things we never knew before. The more we rely on Him, the more of His presence we experience.
Seek God over His presence - God's presence is where God is. We cannot seek God's presence without seeking God. Many times we are focused so much on experiencing God's presence that we deny His person. We often measure His presence by how we feel, by the signs we see and the response we receive to our ministry but sometimes, God just wants us to recognise that He is there.
So is God always present in our lives? Oh yes He is! The more we draw closer to Him, the more we will experience His presence. What joy it is to continually be in His presence!