In the presence of Jesus

A friend said something this week that touched me: He said he longed to be aware of Jesus’ presence in his life.

It was a heartfelt declaration from a man who believes in Jesus and trusts him in the midst of difficult personal circumstances.

His statement raises a host of questions in my mind – questions that Christians have been asking for centuries. For instance, is Jesus absent if I don’t feel he is present? If I don’t feel he is near, is it because of my sin or disobedience?

I am convinced that Jesus is always present even if I don’t “feel” he is. In Matthew 28:20, he promised that he would always be with us. And I believe what Jesus says.

But what about being aware of his presence? Why do some people have vivid experiences of Jesus in visions and sometimes audible words while others do not? Why do we have strong impressions of God’s presence at some point in our lives and at others we do not?

I often think of King David when I puzzle through questions of various kinds. God considered him “a man after his own heart”. And yet there were times when David felt the Lord had forsaken him.

In Psalm 22:1, David says: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why are you so far away when I cry for help?”

Yet, on other occasions, David was keenly aware of God giving him directions.

Jeanne Guyon, who wrote Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ had a remarkably close relationship with Jesus. And yet she also wrote about long dry periods when God seemed far away.

I believe we can build barriers between ourselves and God through disobedience. God is present, but we feel he is far away. It is our doing, not God’s. Like the father in Jesus’ wonderful story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15, God is longing to welcome us into his arms.

But I also believe that we can go through periods where God seems far away even though we have done nothing wrong.

I like the way David ends Psalm 22. He reaffirms his trust in God and praises him despite his bewilderment.

As many have said, our faith is based on fact, not feeling. The fact is what Jesus has done for us on the cross and the life he has given us.

And the feeling? God will choose to bless us with an awareness of his presence in his own time and for his own reasons.

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