I would have to say that the idea of experiencing God, feeling his presence *and having those *‘;awe’ inspiring magical moments is something that I have struggled with my entire life because I don’t really have them. Of course I get to hear many other people’s stories about how they had these awesome events which changed their life forever; how they saw this, heard that, felt this and did that. In all openness, the lack of such things in my life has brought upon more doubt in my life than anything else. No scientific discovery, no crazy atheist, no other faith or sophisticated argument has done more damage than the lack of these moments in my life.
In discussion with other people I know, I’ve realized that I am by far not the only one with these thoughts. Some people I know, lack belief in God entirely because they don’t have these experiences. But until recently, in one of those awesome conversations with my amazing bride, I had never really thought about what it is we mean when we say the words ‘;experiencing God,’ or ‘;feeling his presence.’ Often we just see or hear other people’s accounts and ask, “Why not me?”
In discussion with my amazing bride, I got to thinking, and asked, “How is it I define God’s presence in the first place?” What exactly am I expecting it to be? A fuzzy warmth like a feather boa or a soft blanket draped over my shoulders? Perhaps a hand on my face or chill throughout my entire body? What is it I have been anticipating all these years and not getting? But what really hit me was when I applied the same thought pattern to other people and not just God, in other words, how do I experience the presence of my amazing bride or other friends in my life?
This was a turning point in my thinking, because if we are honest, experiencing the presence of another person is not something we feel necessarily, but it is more like something we know inherently. Then, after acknowledging the person’s presence we are free to experience and enjoy it. Do I need to physically feel, see, hear or smell them? Not really.
In a way I think we can look at God in a similar fashion. We don’t need to have all these indicators that he is there, but based off the testimony of the Bible, which has never been shown to be unreliable or false, and the testimony of others in our lives that tells us he is there with us, we can put faith in that and respond accordingly.
Now of course we want to ask, “Why doesn’t God just do those things for us to let himself be known?” That is a good question, and certainly worth asking. And really there are two answers to that question.
First: In my opinion, God does quite well at letting us know he is there. While it is totally possible for God to give us a physical sensation or a vision of him (Which he does sometimes), he also displays his handiwork through nature, which goes in line with Romans 1:20. To understand this better, imagine you walked up to your front door one day and sitting on your porch was a beautiful painting, addressed to you as a gift from a secret admirer. Would you wish you had seen the individual? Of course! But would you doubt that they exist just because you didn’t see him? Of course not! Well, that is what God has done by giving us a beautiful creation in which he gives us innumerable gifts, some as simple as oxygen and gravity, others as stunning as the sunset or a perfect heart shaped stone that we find in the river bed on a day when we are feeling down.
Second: I think God doesn’t always give us physical presentations of him because we would determine our relationship with him based on those events. How often do we think to ourselves, “If God just opened up the sky and said ‘;Here I am!’ then I would believe?” Of course we would! It would be dumb if we didn’t! But what we fail to realize is that this statement is just an excuse to enable laziness. We want God to do all the work!
Following is a list that I think sums up most of the reasons we don’t experience God as we think we should:
- If we don’t have the experiences, we might strive for them and not God. This is idolatry.
- If we have the experiences, we might strive for them and not God. This is also known as idolatry.
- If we have the experiences, there might be no use for the word ‘;faith’ in something we are to be faithful in.
- If we have the experiences, we might gauge our relationship with God based upon their frequency and not God’s promises.
- If we have the experiences then didn’t have them for awhile, we might doubt our salvation and perhaps even God.
- Maybe we never pursue God in such a fashion as to let him know that we’re interested in a relationship with him.
- Maybe we will get these experiences when our faith in him will not be determined or changed by it.
- Maybe we aren’t accustomed to showing God the reverence that is due to him as king in our worship, prayer and lifestyle.
In the end we must realize that there is no chemistry to God and his actions, much like there is no chemistry to us and ours. While I think these statements make sense, they are not absolute as God has worked outside of them in the past; just read about Saul’s conversion to Paul in Acts 9. Though God is perfectly capable to allow us to be witnesses to amazing experiences and supernatural events, I think we are much better off seeking him and his kingdom first (Matthew 6:33), then let him bless us as he knows best, not as our limited minds think best.