There were 25,000 people around me, all of us thronged into an Atlanta arena for a young adults conference, everyone singing as loud as we possibly could. At least, that’s how it sounded. I couldn’t decipher who was singing and who wasn’t – all I knew was thousands of voices were praising God together and I’d never heard anything like it before. I closed my eyes and stopped singing, trying to take in the sound. It was an enormous sound; it thundered around me, and I could feel my heart pounding in my chest. It sounded like what heaven might someday be like. I felt small, and in awe. Despite being surrounded by people, I felt intimately acquainted with the God of the universe.
A few days later, I was back in my small church in Dundas, Ontario. There were seventy-four people around me. Someone always counts who comes, because we’re a small enough church to track numbers each week. I was no longer in an arena, but a small stone church building that’s almost 200 years old. Our sound system isn’t state-of-the-art, and sometimes the speakers crackle, but as we sang in worship that morning — just those seventy-four voices — I could feel God with me.
I felt God’s presence tangibly, powerfully, and profoundly — both in an arena in Atlanta and in my small church in Ontario. God’s presence isn’t available only in big conferences, but also in a small and faithful congregation who come week after week.
But what about when you can’t feel God’s presence? Maybe you’ve been to both the glamorous conference and the small church building; maybe you’ve collapsed on your knees on your apartment floor or you’ve hidden yourself in your bedroom closet; maybe you’ve prayed faithfully with a group of friends or gone to Bible study week after week — and maybe even in all of that, you haven’t felt the presence of God.
It can be easy to believe that when we can’t feel His presence, God is no longer with us.
But God’s presence is not always a feeling.
God’s presence is not dictated or always detected by our feelings, our fickle hearts, or our moods. His presence is not mandated by how loud the music is at our church service or if the sound equipment is top-notch.
I am thankful — deeply and genuinely grateful — every time God gives me the grace of feeling His presence.
But my feelings don’t control whether or not God is with me. His presence is constant. He is with me even when I don’t acknowledge Him, even when I don’t fall on my face in gratitude for Him. He is within me and beside me. He promised us He’s Emmanuel — God with us. He came to dwell as close as anyone possibly could, in the womb of a woman, and then He gave us His Spirit to live within us.
“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” The psalmist once uttered these words, and you and I could utter the same.
You cannot escape from God’s presence — in the highest heights or the lowest depths — even if you can’t feel a thing. C.S Lewis once wrote, “God’s presence is not the same as the feeling of God’s presence and He may be doing most for us when we think He is doing least.”
When you can’t “feel” His presence, perhaps God is inviting you into something else: trust.
To trust that no matter your feelings, God is present.
To trust that no matter what comes, God is near.
To trust that no matter where or how you worship, God is worthy of it all.
Thank you for this! It is so true, so many times we want a certain feeling, not realizing that God is doing exactly what we need, we just need to trust more. Blessings!
Aliza Latta says
So thankful this encouraged you today, Judy <3
Ruth Mills says
Simply beautiful! Our church has gone through a really hard hurtful season that without trusting He was good & He was working even when it didn’t appear or feel like it would have been even more hard & hurtful. Praise Him He is faithful!!!
Aliza Latta says
I’m so sorry your church has been going through a hard season. But your outlook and faith is absolutely beautiful – thank you Ruth!
Thank you for this! balm to my soul this morning.
Aliza Latta says
So grateful to hear that, Courtney!
d from Canada says
Thank you Aliza ~ such an important message & you’ve done a beautiful job relating it.
Christina Wienroth says
Thank you for this invitation to trust
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
Thank you for this. It teaches you trust no matter what. Our church is very small 30 if even that it. We are trying to trust God to keep it open. As we the faithful members believe it should say open. In God timing we will get more people to come to it. But sometimes it hard to trust especially if you don’t feel God at work. One time the Church I go was giving with alot of people and kids. It had even a charity shop it gone. We all are standing on the promises in God’s word were it says were two are three are gathered God is there. It hard at times but we keep looking on to him. Thank you for today’s reading. Excellent. Love Dawn Ferguson-Little xx
Aliza Latta says
Praying for your church today, Dawn!
BC from BC says
Thank you for this reminder. No matter what season or valley we are in, God hears us, and knows what we are going through. Knowing He is near and present helps to know we are not alone. It is the hope we all need. 🙂
I think that too many Christians, truly Believe, that God (Jesus, Holy Spirit & Father) is Only with Us, when we feel him. This is an experiencial Belief, based on our emotions. I’ve had to stand on God’s Promises & my Faith for the last 40+ years, to believe that God is with me, surrounding, & upholding me. Why?Because chronic Depression has dulled my emotions in that time.
Though I wouldn’t want my experience on others, a benefit it’s had is to only be able to rely on God’s Word. Every day, putting “on the full armour of God, & having done all to Stand, to stand strong.”
I’m also believing that one day God will completely heal my Depression Completely, so I can feel His Presence, & all my emotions; whether her on earth or in Heaven.
I can empathize with you El Morehead. I too suffer with depression and when it’s grip is strong I do not feel God’s presence. It is often difficult to remember that He IS always there with me. During those times I try to remember the days that I would talk about Jesus with the kids in my classroom (before I retired). Seeing the excitement on their faces and watching their hands go up with questions…the Holy Spirit was definitely right there with me and I DEFINITELY felt God’s presence!
Beth Williams says
I have been in both big & small churches. For me the smaller the better. Last Sunday we sang a song the included “I need you, Lord I need you now”. Just singing those words brought tears to my eyes. It was my confession that I needed Jesus & His healing touch for pain in my right hand. I would trust God to do what He thought best. I know His presence is always with me even when my emotions don’t feel it. God is inviting me to surrender my life & all its trials to Him.