Why you don’t feel God’s presence in your life

Jay Dee

Why you don’t feel God’s presence in your life

Oct 24, 2016

People say some interesting things regarding God’s presence.  I’ve heard two different people remark, after participating in the same church service: Wow, God was really present today, that worship service was so uplifting. And You could tell God just wasn’t with us today.  The worship

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why-you-dont-feel-gods-presence-in-your-life-300People say some interesting things regarding God’s presence.  I’ve heard two different people remark, after participating in the same church service:

Wow, God was really present today, that worship service was so uplifting.

And

You could tell God just wasn’t with us today.  The worship was so uninspiring.

We also hear people pray that “God will fill this place with His presence”.  But is that something we should be praying for?  Does God come and go from our churches?  How about our houses, or our bedrooms and bathrooms for that matter?

God is everywhere and every-when

Can a man hide himself in hiding places So I do not see him?” declares the LORD “Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?” declares the LORD. – Jeremiah 23:24

We serve an omnipresent God.  That is, He is always present.  He’s not more present at some times and less than others.  He’s not here one day and gone the next.  God doesn’t “stop by” your church while you’re having services.  He doesn’t suddenly pay attention when you say “Our Father in heaven” like some genie.

Yet it’s undeniable that at time we feel His presence more acutely than at others.  There are times we feel filled with the Holy Spirit.  There are times where we know God is with us.

For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them. – Matthew 18:20

What happens in those instances?  If God doesn’t suddenly appear, then how do we make sense of verses that seem to suggest He does?

God doesn’t change – our awareness of Him does

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. – Jeremiah 29:13

God doesn’t come and go, but rather our awareness and focus on Him waxes and wanes.  Those times when we feel God’s presence are not when He is nearer, but rather when we notice that He is there.

We may feel Him more strongly during church services because we are in a setting that predisposes us to thing about Him.  That turns out attention to Him and makes us aware of His ever present glory.

Sometimes God wants to get our attention

I won’t deny that there are times when God really seems to be just really there.  However, I still believe that it’s not God who changes in terms of His presence, but rather that He just makes a little more noise.

Sometimes it’s a lot more noise, and fancy fireworks.  Sometimes He needs to make sure we’re going to pay attention.

And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. – Acts 2:4

We mistakenly believe that God has suddenly showed up to give us His power, but the truth is, that power is always there.  Like the outlets in our houses, ready to be tapped into for His glory.  The problem is, like the outlets in our house, we know they’re there.  We just don’t think about them regularly.  We look for an outlet when we need it.  When we need something powered.  When we decide it’s an appropriate time and we need some extra help.

We usually ignore God’s presence until we decide we want Him

We pray and boom, God “shows up”.  Power on demand.  Often we treat God more like an outlet than our Lord and Master.  He wants to give us that power all the time.  The problem is, we don’t see it.  We don’t think we need it.  We don’t think it’s appropriate.  Or we would rather just do it on our own.

Or, for many of us, we just don’t feel like doing that kind of work right now.  A little like deciding we won’t want to vacuum right now.  So, the outlet sits there.  Unlimited power that keeps the universe in motion.  Stuck in an outlet because we can’t be bothered to tap into it.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that God is powerless without us.  Rather, I believe God limits Himself because He prefers to work through us, and to allow us free will.

So, when you don’t feel that God is present in your life.  Look around and notice how many outlets there are in your house.  God’s even closer than that.  All the time.  We don’t need to invite him nearer.  We need to realize He’s already there.

What if you still don’t feel His presence?

Chances are you don’t want to feel His presence.  I’ve unfortunately seen this time and time again, even in my own life.  People want to want God. That’s not a typo.  Read it again.  People want to want God. That’s not the same as actually wanting Him to be there.  If you realize He’s there all the time, well, then you might need to change.  That’s an uncomfortable thought.  It’s easier to say “I don’t feel God’s presence” than to say “I don’t want to feel God’s presence, because I don’t want to change.”

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10 thoughts on “Why you don’t feel God’s presence in your life”

  1. Mike says:

    I think I feel God’s presence all the time. There are times that it is an overwhelming experience, and other times just a quite being there. There were times that I hesitated to acknowledge his presence, such as when I was in bed making love to my wife. Now I have learned to accept him in even that situation because he made sex, and wants us to enjoy that experience together.

  2. Norah says:

    I’m really trying to study this one. Coming from a background of always wanting God’s presence to show up and when it did it was in such a fireworks way as in Acts chapter 2 as you quoted. It seems like that’s all that’s all I’ve ever known and so now I’m trying to figure out where his presence is in other ways as well. I really like what the first commenter said about God even showing up in that time either his wife. I was just praying this at church yesterday.

  3. Keelie Reason says:

    Love this friend. I really think you hit the nail on the head here.

  4. MaBeck says:

    Job 23:8-12 Job did not feel the Lord’s Presence when he was going through “times of testing”. I believe it’s a mistake to tell people that if they don’t feel God’s Presence that the fault always lies with them. (If I read that right…it’s 5:40am!) But, I’ve learned that unforgiveness causes us to not feel His Presence. This is a difficult and painful subject for some, don’t want people to come away hopeless. Also, to realize the truth of “He will never leave us nor forsake us” is good when feelings don’t coincide with the truth that He is always with us.

    1. Jay Dee says:

      That doesn’t mean Job was wrong. I think Jesus was the only one that could properly claim that, but He took that burden for us all.

      As for telling people the fault lies with them. I think there are more compassionate ways to word that 🙂 I tried not to be so heavy-handed. But ultimately, yeah. The only way they can come away hopeless would be if they decide not to focus on God. In that case, then it is hopeless. Without focusing on Him, we have no hope.\

      Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. – Psalm 26:5

  5. Tshego Mogotsi says:

    “That turns our attention to Him and makes us aware of His ever present glory.” I do think it is in our effort to be aware. Un-forgiveness takes you away from him but his presence is still there, this is the time you should actively seek it to be aware of it and ask for help to overcome your un-forgiveness, tap into the outlet. It’s hard to swallow that but it is what it is, I have experienced that myself.

  6. sandi says:

    Jaydee, I just found this in my email and read it. I don’t agree that the reason we don’t feel God’s presence is because we don’t want to. Certainly that is the case sometimes, but I believe there are times we don’t because that’s what’s required to growth our faith. Just like it takes faith to believe that seeds are growing under the earth before they sprout above ground, we learn to have faith that He is with us always, even when we don’t perceive His presence. I think it’s a cruel thing to suggest to someone that they don’t feel God’s presence because they don’t want to in the same way it is cruel and just plain wrong to suggest someone remains ill because they don’t have enough faith.

    He is always with us. He will never leave us or forsake us, but the Psalms are full of cries to the LORD because we can’t feel His presence. I don’t remember reading anything about it always being because we don’t want to. 🙁

    1. Jay Dee says:

      I don’t see the connection between feeling God’s presence and being healed from an illness.

      And yes, I agree, David felt like God was far from him, but I think that was his own insecurities. I’m not sure how you can uphold the “He will never leave us” and “He removes His presence” at the same time. The Bible says that even when we are sitting in darkness, awaiting God’s judgement, He is still there (Micah 6:8-9). It’s just that we can’t perceive Him if we are unwilling. I’m not sure how it’s cruel to tell people God is loving and will never leave you. The other option is to say God might abandon you to teach you a lesson. That seems cruel to me.

      1. sandi says:

        The connection is that in both cases the suffering person is being blamed. If you had enough faith you’d be healed. If you wanted to feel God’s presence you would.

        The whole point of the seed analogy is that the seed is still there growing even though we don’t see it. God is always present even when we don’t feel Him. I believe He allows that for our good and growth. There is nothing cruel about that.

        I think David’s insecurities are recorded so we know that we will all struggle with feeling His presence. I read no rebuke of him in that regard. His lack of feeling God’s presence was not unique to him. It’s also recorded in Psalm 102 and we don’t have an official author on that one that I am aware of. God promised never to leave us or forsake us. I don’t believe He ever promised us that we could feel His presence whenever wanted it. He did say that when we seek Him with our whole heart we will find Him. He didn’t say how quickly that will happen.

        Certainly unrepentant sin separates us from the LORD and sometimes people don’t want to feel His presence, but that is not always the case.

        When a father allows his child to cry for awhile before picking them up when teaching them about sleeping alone, he’s not being cruel or abandoning them. He’s allowing him/her to not feel his presence immediately because it will help him/her mature and be comfortable sleeping alone.

        He is our Perfect Father. Job records His doing something similar. For His Glory and Job’s faith. Don’t lay burdens on people they were never meant to carry. That’s basically what Job’s friends did.

        John Piper has addressed this subject in a couple Ask Pastor John episodes

        http://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/does-god-ever-withdraw-his-presence-from-his-children (episode 19)
        http://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/if-god-never-leaves-me-why-does-he-withdraw

        1. Jay Dee says:

          Sometimes the suffering person is at fault. That’s not cruelty, that’s reality. We need to hold people accountable to what they are responsible for.

          I think there’s a big difference between a father not picking up his child and the father getting in his car and leaving (removing his presence). I agree, we all struggle with feeling his presence, but that’s because it’s our sin that separates us from God. God doesn’t have sin, so nothing separates Him from us (Romans 8:35).

          So, I guess I disagree with John Piper’s opinion in those links you shared. I believe the Bible is clear that God is always there. It is not us who is waiting for Him, but He who is waiting for us.

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