We experience God’s presence with us as a blessing and His presence in us as our very life. It is an unchanging, constant reality. But our experience of His presence varies.
God is present and working in our lives even when we experience a sense of distance from Him.
a) When we sin, we experience the effects of His sanctifying presence.
Whenever we turn aside to our own way, our lack of peace is the Holy Spirit drawing us back to abide in Jesus again.
“No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him” (1 John 3:6).
“Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God” (Isa 59:2).
“The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. By this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit Whom He has given us” (1 John 3:24).
Our Father is eager to draw us back into a deeper, chastened delight in His heart and His ways.
“God yearns jealously over the Spirit He has made to dwell in us.”
“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”
“Purify your hearts, you double-minded.”
“Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you” (Jms 4:5, 8, 10).
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
b) Disappointment is God’s stage for building faith and trusting obedience in our lives.
Unanswered prayer, unrealized expectations, unexplained loss, unrelieved sickness and suffering, and unrestrained evil are some of the experiences that challenge our confidence in God’s attentive care in our lives.
In fact and in reality, our disappointments place us right in the center of God’s training program.
“In the days of His flesh, He (Jesus) offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, . . .. Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things He suffered” (Heb 5:7-8).
“. . . Who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, that the proof of your faith, more precious than perishable gold, even though tested by fire, may be found to praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:5-7).
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).
“And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Heb 11:6).
“Now he was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart” (Luke 18:1-3).
“In hope against hope he (Abraham) believed, . . . Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb; yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform” (Rom 4:18-20).
“‘But My righteous one shall live by faith;
And if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him.’”
“But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul” (Heb 10:38-39).
c) God hides His face from us so that we will seek Him.
In His wisdom and His intimate knowledge of each of our lives, God draws us beyond the ways of knowing Him with which we are familiar. He wants to reveal Himself in ways that are new in our experience. His Spirit breaks through our soul’s limitations in apprehending spiritual things with new light from His Word, broadening our capacity and readiness to believe His presence, to discern His voice, and to do His bidding.
“And He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom 8:27-28).
“For the Lord searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will let you find Him” (1 Chron 28:9).
“He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Heb 11:6).
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Matt 7:7-8).
(Spotlight 7, Lesson 6 in Doctrine 101: Learning about God)