One of the most life-giving promises God makes to us as his children is his promise to be near. David wrote in Psalm 139:9-10, “If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.” What an incredible image David paints of the nearness of God! If we were to explore the ends of the earth, God would still be there. If we were to dive to the depths of the ocean, God would still be there. If we descend into the darkest places of our inner being, we will still find God. There’s no place we can go that he isn’t present. God’s presence floods the earth like the early morning fog, saturating everything with its haze. His presence is his promise.
So, what do we do with the knowledge of God’s nearness? What does it mean for us? In Deuteronomy 31:6 we’re told, “He will not leave you or forsake you.” And in Psalm 23:4 David exemplifies this command in saying, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 46:1 says it this way: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”
God’s nearness is meant to be our source of courage and strength. We are to find refuge in the knowledge and experience of his presence. His presence means everything for us. It means we’re not alone anymore. It means he will guide and shepherd us through the various situations we may find ourselves in: “your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” When you wake up in the morning, God is there to love and prepare you. When you go about your day, God is there for you, desiring to empower you. When you lie down at night, God is there to give you rest and peace. God’s presence is the foundation on which so many of his other promises are fulfilled.
So if he’s truly present always, why is it that we don’t feel him? Why is it that we at times feel lonely, dissatisfied, weary, and weak? Encountering God’s presence starts with having faith in what Scripture says. Feeling God’s nearness starts with trusting that he’s right next to you and wants you to know him. God doesn’t force himself on us. He doesn’t occupy space in our hearts that we fill with other things. So simply make space for God today, trust in his word that “He will not leave you or forsake you,” and encounter the nearness of your heavenly Father. Don’t worry if you aren’t feeling him. Your only job is to make space in your heart and trust him. He’ll take care of the rest. Spend time today in prayer renewing your mind to the promise of God’s presence and letting his nearness become your source of courage, strength, and rest.
1. Meditate on the truth of God’s nearness as promised in his word.
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” Isaiah 43:1-3
2. Make space in your heart for him to fill. Trust his word. Tell him that you believe that he’s right there with you. Ask the Spirit to help you make room for him to fill.
3. Now simply receive God’s tangible presence. Ask him to make himself known to you. Ask him to manifest his presence to you. Remember it’s really not about feeling him. Experiencing him is just the byproduct of being his child. The weight of it is all on him.
“Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.” Psalm 139:7-10
In response to God’s presence pray this prayer of Brother Lawrence to God. May his words articulate the prayer of your heart: O my God, since thou art with me, and I must now, in obedience to thy commands, apply my mind to these outward things, I beseech thee to grant me the grace to continue in thy presence; and to this end do thou prosper me with thy assistance, receive all my works, and possess all my affections. Extended Reading: Psalm 139 or watch the Bible Project’s video on Psalms.
May his words articulate the prayer of your heart: O my God, since thou art with me, and I must now, in obedience to thy commands, apply my mind to these outward things, I beseech thee to grant me the grace to continue in thy presence; and to this end do thou prosper me with thy assistance, receive all my works, and possess all my affections.