I have formed you, you are My servant;
O Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me! (Isaiah 44:21)
This article is inspired particularly by the special youth of St. Mark’s Church London, of whom I am honoured to know and spent more time with this past year.
A question was asked during our past Friday Youth Meeting retreat about feeling God’s love and presence, a question (or rather experience) I believe most, if not all of us have encountered, and at times, struggle with from time to time.
God is love. God is everywhere. God is powerful, all-knowing, all-loving, all all all all…
But if He is everywhere and everything and ‘all’ these things – where is He in ‘all’ or even some points of my life? Where is He in my struggle, in my pain, my difficulties? Why does He just “show up” when life is going smooth and well – and when I am ‘so blessed’ when I get that job or that relationship or promotion?
I think the problem with this question is in the question itself. Many times as devout Christians (whatever we may consider as devout) doubt God’s presence or ability to answer my prayers or do what I ask Him to do – immediately. Impromptu as I like to see it. I am blessed when I get something ‘good’ in my life, but if something goes wrong, the blessing goes away – but often times those things are even the greatest of blessings (see my other blog on “Power of Pain” http://learnpraylove.com/the-power-of-pain/)
If I knew “the gift of God” (John 4:10) and about whom we are asking, the question would depend on our ability, and not His – on my ability to be faithful, our genuineness to have a deep relationship with Him. But many times, we’re not bothered (as the English say) and it’s too much effort, too difficult, and it’s not first on my list.
Well, if it’s not first, then we should expect more from ourselves and realise then Christianity is a part-time (or a daily/weekly ‘one-off’) relationship for me. Christ wasn’t giving a humorous statement when He said “Seek first the kingdom.” But we expect God to put us first in everything, He must be my full-time servant, and I – well, I can be there time to time when I need Him. He’s always around isn’t He?
God is unfailing, unchangeable, loving, omniscient – all these things, yes. We’ve heard characteristics about God a million times, but scarcely many of us have experienced those very things about God in our lives. All I know about God is often my demands from Him – He is my personal secretary in my mind and in my life. When I ask of Him of something – He must answer swiftly and speedily – the speed of a text message – and if more than a few minutes, I get agitated, impatient, doubtful, and even at times rage at Him for not being that personal secretary.
In an age where social media is leading the world and fast-paced technology is continually at our fingertips – this lifestyle has become often embedded in our spirituality. I expect God to answer me about that job interview, send me that ‘perfect’ relationship, solve the problems of my family, help me pass those exams, give me that stability and security and sense of knowing my life is all planned out accordingly.
All those expectations of our plans are set up for failure if, and only if, we solely rely on those things without God’s presence and His guidance to lead them. I may fail that exam, never get that job, have a broken family, living life daily in unpredictability – but as long as God is the centre, nothing matters, because He will bless, and bless abundantly, even in the midst of what seems like chaos in our lives. But we must believe, and be faithful.
It’s easy said, but almost impossible to be lived. Why? Because my presence of God is so scarce, I live it as a hit-or-miss type of relationship – if I get what I want – then I’m pleased and I know God is listening and there – if I don’t, God all of a sudden vanishes like Casper the Ghost and leaves the building. I expect my tick-boxes to be fulfilled according to my planning and my desires. I want, I want, I want…. But what does God want from us? All He wants for us to love Him and return to Him (Isaiah 44:22) – “Return to Me” … how simple a request, but yet how difficult it is for us to do.
God isn’t satirical with our life and we’re not like muppets in His hand when things don’t go as planned or what we expected. My life isn’t depending on me – and likewise God’s presence isn’t dependent on what I want.
Whilst all this is nice to read and at times cliché, it will mean nothing unless we truly seek God as God. I know His presence always is with me because of His promises – “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deut 31:6), “I have formed you, you are My servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me!” (Isaiah 44:21), “Yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands” (Isaiah 49:15-6) and the list is endless….
When I don’t ‘feel’ God’s presence, often times it is I who left the building and Jesus is there knocking, waiting, saying “you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the Lord” (Jeremiah 29:13-4).
When we forget His love and feeling His presence, we must go back to His promises and remind ourselves God is God. It’s us who fail, who change, who leave, who demand and at times are unfaithful. We’ve lost sight of God’s presence because we have lost sight of our lives in and with God in every moment.
If I don’t feel Him or think He has left me- then, as harsh as it may sound, we consider God a liar and doubt Him and His promises. I don’t consider myself personally to never have doubted or have lost sight of His love, or His presence in my life (yes the theologians too struggle with God and at times get angry with Him). But each of us have to persist, be patient, and pray sincerely and whole-heartedly. If I don’t want Him in my life- I need to be honest. It’s ok to tell Him I’m angry, or I doubt Him or don’t want to speak to Him (for doesn’t the Creator know your thoughts even without you telling Him?)
But we often times give God the crumbs and sorrows of our day and rarely stand up and tell Him how wonderful He is and live a life of gratitude, which is ultimately God’s will (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
So today, let our prayer be to ask Him to help keep us striving, persisting, and not losing hope. Let it be that we may pray to seek Him first and remind ourselves life is always changing, passing, moving, – but He remains the same. What a great comfort that is to know.
I conclude with one of my favourite psalms that helps me remember of God’s omnipotence and ever-presence in my life. Below is part of Psalm 139 (if we can even memorise it would be superb!)
O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
2 You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
3 You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.
4 For there is not a word on my tongue,
But behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.
5 You have hedged me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is high, I cannot attain it.
7 Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
8 If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
9 If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,”
Even the night shall be light about me;
12 Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You,
But the night shines as the day;
The darkness and the light are both alike to You.