- Part One – God’s presence is often termed “God’s face”, He tells us to seek His face, it is a vital need for us, and He will help us.
- Part Two – Basic truth’s about God’s presence. He promises His presence if we love and obey Him.
- Part Three – Some of the many ways we can love God.
- Part Four – We sometimes see God’s face and sometimes not because God is sovereign. He initiates our awareness of His presence, He responds to our reaching out, and He withdraws temporarily. There are also hindrances to His presence over which we have some control.
PART FIVE: HINDRANCES TO AWARENESS OF GOD’S PRESENCE
Unfortunately, in our less than perfect world, many things can block us from being aware of God’s presence, even though He is right there with us. Here are a few we will consider.
- Our lack of love.
- Our physical condition.
- Our soul’s condition.
- Our lack of experience or knowledge.
- Pride must go.
- Hidden sin we of which we are unaware.
- Sometimes we just have to wait.
- Lies from the enemy. (Part Six)
Sin. When I reviewed the final draft of this blog post, it grieved me that I had first labelled this heading “Disobedience.” It is easier to think of ourselves as disobedient to God, rather than thinking what is true, that we sin against God. What a dangerous and damaging trend when “less offensive” or
“politically correct” vocabulary is used instead of the stern vocabulary of the Bible, which includes words like sin, iniquity, evil, guilt, and damnation. If God had wanted to use gentle words and thoughts when talking about sin, He would have used the tender, loving words He uses in, for example, Zephaniah 3:17 or Psalm 103:14. Sin is serious. It IS a matter of eternal life and death. God wants us to take it seriously. He came to earth and died for us because of our sin, as He says in John 3:16. I believe that God makes hearing about sin unpleasant to us so that we will pay attention and do all we can to avoid it.
Isaiah 59:1-2 motivates me, mightily. It teaches me that sin separates me from God, hides His face from me, and stops His ears from hearing me. That motivates me to love God with all my heart and strength. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5). Love includes obedience. In Chapters 56 through 59 of Isaiah, God is speaking about the horrific sins of Israel during those times, such as “. . . the profaning of the Sabbath, the gluttony of Israel’s leaders, its widespread idolatry with its vile practices, the punctilious fasting while practicing flagrant injustice”, (Halley’s Bible handbook, page 389). And He explains for us the consequences of sin. He says:
“Surely, the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear, BUT (emphasis added) your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. (Isaiah 59:2,NIV).“
Oh, Lord! Help us all to live a life pleasing to You!
Our lack of love. I had heard the story of the sinful woman who was so grateful for Jesus forgiving her many sins that she poured costly perfume on His feet and kissed and wiped his feet with her hair. (Luke 7:36-50). When others criticized her extravagant display of love for Jesus, Jesus taught His listeners that people who have had a great debt paid for them, love greatly but that “. . . he who has been forgiven little, loves little.” (Luke7 :47b, NIV).
In my opinion, one implication of that is that if we are aware of the immeasurable debt Jesus paid for us while we were yet sinners, if we remember what He suffered for each of us, we will have deep, passionate love and gratitude for Him.
That love will be deep, whether we found Jesus at a young age or when older. I know people who were saved while still preschoolers who have a passionate love for Jesus. In my own case, because I did not accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior until the age of 29, I had experienced walking in darkness. I desperately wanted to stay in His light, and I was desperately grateful. I also fell desperately in love with Jesus. Like the sinful woman in Luke 7, I was keenly aware of how sinful my life had been.
Oh, Father! Help each of us remember the price Jesus paid and help us seek to love You accordingly!
One of the biggest blessings of writing is that it makes me really search the Scripture and seek God for understanding for myself. In seeking to understand this story about loving God, I noticed the cause and effect indicated in Verse 47a: “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for (emphasis added) she loved much.” To me, this says that part of why our sins are forgiven is that we love God. And just look at the promise Jesus gives her.
“But Jesus said to the woman. Your faith has saved you; go (enter) into peace [in freedom from all the distresses that are experienced as the result of sin] (Emphasis added). (John 7:50, AMPC)
Our physical condition. Sometimes conditions of our body block our awareness of His presence. Poor health, mental and emotional stresses such as depression and anxiety, fatigue, grief, and loss all affect the body which affects the brain. It is much easier to be aware of God’s presence when I have adequate rest, follow a healthy diet, and reduce stress as much as possible. And God always helps when I try to take care of my earthly temple.
Our soul’s condition. Sometimes our soul is simply disturbed. Distractions, some we can stop and some we cannot stop, steal our awareness of God’s presence. We cannot control the world, but we can ask God to help us reduce distractions in our life, so we can focus on Him better. Some things that steal my peace are a messy house and surroundings; when I am lazy or neglect to do what I know I should; and sloppiness in daily life, or not doing things with excellence. I can see that each of these is disobedience. God does things orderly (I Corinthians 14:33—He is a God of peace, not confusion); He tells us to do our work (Ephesians 4:28), and He says do whatever we are doing as if we were doing it for Him (Ecclesiastes 9:10, and Colossians 3:23).
What things in particular disturb your soul that you can ask God to help you change?
Our spiritual condition. If a spiritual matter is blocking our awareness of God, it is essential to get quiet and alone with Him so that we can hear Him and so that He can show us our spiritual condition. If we stay busy, even if we are desperately searching for Him the best we can, we might not hear Him until we find a measure of His peace. In that peace, we can hear Him. We can be like a small child crying and screaming over a scraped knee, when all we need to do is calm down and let God take care of us. He tells us “Seek peace and pursue it.” (I Peter 3:10-12; Psalm 34:12-16).
I am learning that anger in particular blocks my awareness of God’s presence. And my anger is so often childish. When I calm down and take a realistic, adult view of the situation, I usually can see my wrong thinking or else, if need be, can express my upsetting feelings to God, ask for forgiveness if needed, and accept His love and His help to be at peace again.
In what ways are you consciously pursuing peace?
Do you regularly take time to just sit in silence with God?
Our lack of experience or knowledge. I clearly remember as a young believer craving the steady peace and victorious living I saw in older saints. So, I read and obeyed what I learned about God’s presence. It took a while but, it has been worth each moment a thousand times over. Unfortunately, the enemy tries to steal this blessing, because that is his nature (John 10:10) and he sometimes does that by shooting arrows, or fiery darts–lies. (Ephesians 6:16) The enemy does not want us to be aware of God’s presence. (Part Five addresses that important topic).
Pride must go! Satan so often works through our pride. I think that might be because he knows that James 4:6b tells us clearly: “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (NIV) Proverbs 6:16-19 lists things God hates; at the top of the list is a proud or haughty attitude. We do well to ask God to reveal pride in our hearts.
Hidden sin we are unaware of – a personal example. I had a personal struggle for several days – with pride unbeknownst! Funny, I began this blog post 29 days ago, feeling upbeat and confident about finding the Lord’s presence. Since then, I felt up and down emotionally for several days, sometimes sensing His presence, but more often not. And day by day, I became more discouraged in general than I had been in a long while.
I thought I could finish this writing in two days, but as the days stretched on, every time I sat at my desk, I felt worse and worse, miserable that I was not feeling God’s presence, like I usually do when I write. And the more I focused on that, the less I felt His presence – AND – the more out of balance the rest of daily life became, especially in the areas that disturb my peace the most – a messy house and not keeping on top of things.
Therein, I think, is an essential lesson. We are to seek God, not feelings, just as we are to live by faith, not by feelings. Day by day, as I was writing about this topic, my foot got caught in the snare of going by feelings, and I became frustrated because I could not feel His presence like and when I wanted. It is good to want to feel His presence– of course But, if you analyze it too much or overthink it, AND if you think you SHOULD be able to feel Him, AND/OR if you subconsciously think that you deserve to feel His presence because you have in the past and you are doing so many good things for Him and being so good—you find less and less. At least I did.
Thankfully, as I trusted God, He released my foot from that particular snare (Psalm 91:3). When I got to the end of my emotional rope, I gave up, had a good cry with the Lord, and just asked God for His help to restore my soul (Psalm 23:2). Only then did I see how my pride, as described above, had hidden His face (Isaiah 59:2). I confessed my pride and asked God to cleanse that.
As I write this, I can only say “Thank You, Lord!” for continually cleaning and pruning us. Our own hearts deceive us because they are desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). Only God can clean us up. While I was in fact being prideful, I did not think I was. Also, I did not realize I was feeling entitled. Surprise! We are in grave danger when we think we are doing fine (I Corinthians 10:12). Only God knows what is really inside our human hearts.
“I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.” Jeremiah 17:10, NIV
Confession is, indeed, good for the soul. As I sit here now, writing, nothing external in my world has changed but it all looks okay again because I am focused on God, trusting in Him, not myself, and doing my work of writing for Him. When we trust Him and do good–whether that “good” is our own particular work for Him or the business of a daily life that reveals God to unbelievers (I Peter 2:12) –then we can “dwell in the land and enjoy safe pastures.” (Psalm 37:3, NIV). And truly we are then fed and well fed!
Sometimes we just have to wait. Lamentations 3:1-20 talks of the trials Jeremiah has endured, even to the point that he said “Perished is my strength and my expectation from the Lord.” (v. 18, AMPC). However, when Jeremiah changes his focus in verse 21 he says,
“But this I recall, therefore have I hope and expectation: It is of the Lord’s mercies and loving-kindnesses that we are not consumed, because His (tender) mercies fail not. They are new every morning; great and abundant is Your stability and faithfulness” (v. 21-23)
In verses 24-25, Jeremiah then sets his mind to wait and hope for the Lord. Verses 24-25 give great comfort and strength while we wait. The NIV phrases it this way: “I will say to myself ‘the Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’ The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” The rest of Lamentations 3 explains why it is good to hope quietly for the salvation of the Lord. Read it and see for yourself!
So, in times when we do not feel God’s presence or His peace, we can bring to mind that it is because of His great love that we are not consumed. Then, like Jeremiah, we can wait for Him with confident expectancy because we know “the LORD is good and His love endures forever; his faithfulness throughout all generations (Psalm 100:5, NIV)
We can wait for God with confident expectancy because we understand His nature.
In Part Five, we will look at some of the flaming arrows (lies) the enemy uses to keep us from dwelling in the shelter of the Most High, and from resting in the shadow of the Almighty. (Psalm 91)