Never Alone: How to Live in God’s Presence
I had spent precious moments in prayer at Westminster Cathedral in London. I opened the heavy church doors, leaving my place of solitude filled with God’s peace. As I exited the magnificent structure, I noticed a middle-aged street woman sprawled on a bench between McDonald’s golden arches and a Christian bookstore. She bore the weathering complexion of someone living on the streets, but she also looked like any average wife and mother with a happy family. As I gazed upon her weary form, I couldn’t help but wonder, “Whose daughter is she? Whose sister, or mother or friend?” And yet she was so terribly alone!
I experienced this profound emotion upon the birth of our first child. I recognized only too painfully that this precious little baby was separate from me, and I would be unable to shelter and protect him from being alone in the face of tragedy, unkindness, wrong choices, aging, and finally death. As humans, we are incapable of the capacity to care successfully for those we love in the depths of their existence or even accompany them into eternity regardless of how much we love them. If we could just hold them, surround them, protect them always, that would almost be enough. But, of course, to do so is impossible. Try as we might, only God can be there for them in this way.
Our Heavenly Father is able to penetrate and intertwine Himself within the fibers of our lives. We are enveloped in His loving companionship. Paul assures us of His constant, caring presence in Romans 8:
“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?…No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (vv. 35, 37-39)
The greatest holy blessing of our lives is to experience God’s presence-daily, continually, and completely. The psalmist wrote it so well: “In your presence is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11) Conversely, to be separated from God eternally is the ultimate anguish and punishment. “Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your Holy Spirit from me!” repentant King David cries. (Psalm 51:11)
“Loneliness,” according to Mother Teresa, “is the leprosy of the modern world.” So how do we live our daily lives in the presence of God? What does that look like?
“Blind” faith is definitely a way of experiencing the Divine presence, though it is a very limited way. Perhaps we have experienced Him in the past, or rely on the faith of others, or assume He is nearby because of abstract reasoning. However, there is so much more of the life of God that a “blind faith believer” needs to experience for true spiritual development.
Corporate worship, or the fellowship of believers, is one way God’s presence is experienced. There is confirmation that God is acting and moving among His church. Shared experiences help Christians to use a common language based on each of their individual encounters with God.
We also sense God’s Divine company in “numinous” or supernatural events that cannot be explained by human reasoning. God reaches down and touches man and events in human history.
The life of Dwight L. Moody was a testimony to the supernatural power and presence of God. Moody was an uneducated, uncultured, ordinary man whose ministry transformed a nation in the 1800’s. Dr. R. W. Dale followed Moody around for a few days, and observed that God’s work through Moody was totally unrelated to the man’s competency as a minister. The preacher laughed and told his fellow pastor that he would be “sorry if things were otherwise.” The miraculous birth of Isaac to elderly Abraham and Sarah, the powerful move of God through Paul and Barnabas obviously defied human potential or reason. God’s presence in the lives of Bible saints substantiates what can happen when God reaches out to “touch” our natural world. Great things result!
We can see three aspects of how God’s Divine presence is manifested with us. (1) He is close to us even when we are unaware of Him or His acts, having only “blind faith” or abstract reason to turn us towards Him; (2) when He is sensed, or there is a strong impression of His presence; and (3) when He acts in conjunction with our actions to change our surroundings in ways beyond our own powers.
How can we truly be intimate friends of the Heavenly Father if that is all there is to it? No, God is also with us in a conversational relationship: He speaks with us individually—which is only to be expected between people who know each other and care about each other deeply and dearly, sharing common goals and passions.
Brother Lawrence, in his classic book The Practice of the Presence of God, expresses such intimate communion so well:
“I make it my business to persevere in his Holy presence, wherein I keep myself by a simple attention and a general fond regard to God, which I may call an ACTUAL PRESENCE of God; or, to speak better, an habitual, silent and secret conversation of the soul with God, which often causes me joys and raptures inwardly, and sometime also outwardly, so great that I am forced to use means to moderate them and prevent their appearance to others.”
This man of God practiced God’s presence in the menial tasks of life-from dish washing, to gardening, to days and nights of earnest prayer and fasting. We can experience God’s precious presence in such a way that we will NEVER BE ALONE.
Willard, Dallas. Hearing God (Downer’s Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1999), pp. 42-51.
A. P. Fitt, The Shorter Life of D.L. Moody (Chicago: Moody Press, 1900), p. 67.
Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God (Old Tappen, N.J.: Revell, 1958), pp. 37-38.