Lately, I’ve had a hard time sensing God’s presence.
Its not that my life is in crisis. On the contrary, my life has been getting a bit easier. And for that, I am grateful.
But I miss the intimate, life-giving walk I had with God when I was desperate. I don’t go to my quiet time as needy as I used to be. I want to hear from God, but it is not as though my entire day depends on it.
There were years when I pulled the covers over my head each morning, struggling to get out of bed to face the onslaught. Years when the only good part of my day was my time with God. Years when the Word was the only thing that revived me.
I lived and breathed Psalm 119, “My soul clings to the dust. Revive me according to your word.”
I experienced Jeremiah 15, “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart.”
I discovered God’s exquisite blessing from Isaiah 45, “I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hoards in secret places.”
God faithfully met me every day. His Word revived me when I felt I could not go on. I would go to Him hungry, desperate, needy. And He would provide without fail.
He still provides without fail. But now, though life is far from perfect, I don’t feel desperate day-to-day. Now that I have so many things that occupy my attention and bring me joy, I don’t have as much joy in God alone.
So what does that mean? What do I do? Do I ask God for more suffering – so I can have more of Him?
Perhaps, though I don’t think that’s the answer. But I do need to recognize that when things are good, I need to be more purposeful, prayerful, and vigilant about my time with God.
I cannot ignore my devotional life because it doesn’t feel like a necessity. In reality, my devotional life is all the more necessary. I am more prone to wander when my mind is immersed in the lighter, more pleasurable activities of life. When I don’t feel I need Him to make it through the day, I need Him all the more.
That is when I need to kneel down and closely listen for God’s voice. God is still speaking to me. But He is whispering. I need to slow down and make enough space in my life to hear Him. It takes a lot more discipline to hear a whisper.
As CS Lewis says, “… pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
He whispers to us in our pleasures. It’s hard to hear a whisper. I need to be paying close attention or I’ll miss it.
I don’t have trouble hearing God’s voice in my pain. While much of my focus is on removing the agony, I feel God’s presence clearly. In that way, pain is a precious gift. For me, pain has drawn me to God in ways that pleasure never has.
If I am not on guard, pleasure draws me away from God, leaving me self-sufficient and complacent.
I had a rich encounter with God a few days ago, but it took more work than it did when I was in darkness. I sat, and I sat and I sat with my Bible and my journal. At first I felt empty. I was so thankful for all of God’s blessings and yet I wasn’t feeling connected to Him.
It took a long time.
Longer than I usually want to spend, if I’m completely honest. I enjoy spending time with God, but on good days, when other things beckon, I don’t want it to take too long. I’d love to fellowship with God in twenty minutes, thirty minutes if I must, but no longer. And when I’m more focused on what comes after my devotional time, it becomes a duty I mechanically perform.
But as I sat with my Bible, I started talking to God. At first I admitted my distance. My apathy. The ways I have hurried through my times with Him. Or treated my quiet time as another item on my to-do list.
I asked Him to make me needy. To give me a longing for Him. To make me hungry and thirsty for righteousness and then to satisfy me.
Then I pleaded that He would be near to me. That I would hear a word from Him. That I would have a small sense of the joy that I have experienced in suffering.
Then I waited.
At first the silence seemed deafening. A waste of time. But I sat until the silence felt comfortable. Sacred. Holy.
After I took the time to be still before Him, I was more attuned to hearing His voice. Although I’ve never heard anything audible from God, I often hear His voice in Scripture. So I opened the Bible to the place I had bookmarked and started reading.
As I read, certain verses caught my attention. I lingered over them and asked the Lord for clarity. I jotted them down in my journal. In red pen. The words of the living God to me.
I pondered what they meant and how they could apply to my life. I prayed as I wrote, interspersed with silence.
Making space to hear Him is difficult. I often want to get a quick sound bite from God and move on with my day. But when I do that, I lose the richness of fellowship with Him.
Now sometimes even when I give Him the time and space, God is still silent. Then I must worship out of obedience, even if I don’t feel His presence. He is still there, informing my mind, even when my heart feels neutral. That is okay.
Time with God changes me. Even when I don’t “feel” any different afterwards. God is doing a deep work in me, in all of us, conforming us to the likeness of His son.
God whispers in my pleasures. I just need to be still enough to hear.
photo courtesy of Jonathan Davidar