When You Can't Feel God's Presence
I've been thinking a lot today about how hard it is to feel God's presence in the world sometimes.
I know that might seem a shocking admission to some of you, but I've learned that it's better to face these kinds of challenges rather than just sweep them under the rug. Doubts are simply a part of faith, after all.
I have a feeling that there are more than a few of us who ponder what God is up to when things aren't going all that great in the world, or in our own lives.
So how do you know that God is there---especially when things are hard? How can you feel God's presence, when you feel all alone in the universe? How do you hear God's voice when you cry out and all you get is what feels like stony silence?
I don't have an easy answer to this, I'm afraid. I mean, the answer seems easy, but it's actually really complicated. The good news is there is some simplicity on the other side of the complexity---which is kind of a universal pattern.
It comes down to two seemingly simple things: Trust and Awareness.
Let me explain by way of a poem by Langston Hughes that I read the other day:
I have seen nothing but you.
Has been your face,
And every night your hand
And every road
Your voice calling me.
And every rock and every flower and tree
Has been a touch of you.
Have I seen anything else but you…
As I read this poem, I feel a longing within me to feel what the poem is describing. Fortunately, there have been times in my life when I have felt God that palpably, so I know that it's possible even if I happen to be struggling at the moment to connect with it.
I've learned that it's not enough to merely say that you believe in God. Belief is tenuous. Belief is often wrong-headed and incomplete and typically based on information that is transmitted to us by others, or through our faith traditions.
But trust... now that's something altogether different.
Trust is deeper than belief because it's something that you know. You feel it deep within you. Most of the time you can't really explain it because to try and do so doesn't do it justice.
Trust is often forged in struggle and abetted through faithful study, but it is realized by nothing less than your own gut feelings and lived-through experience.
And the thing about trust is that when you learn to surrender and embrace it, you discover newfound freedom for awareness.
When you can say, "I don't know much, but at the very least, I trust that God is all around me," you will find that you are freed, at last, to cast your gaze about and take in a world that is absolutely dripping with the glory of God's love and holiness.
Because trust allows you to live in expectation of God's presence, and as you begin to look with the expectation of seeing God you will suddenly begin to perceive the sacred nature of everything.
Every bit of Creation is imbued with the potential for sacramentality and can not only point us to God, but also reveal God's presence and make us more aware of what God is doing in the world.
May you go out into the world today trusting in the presence of God all around you and in you. May your eyes be opened to the holiness and beauty of God's presence in all of Creation, and even in the people whom you encounter as you move through your day...
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.