Sometimes it can feel like we are all alone in the world. However, God is always there. In Psalm 139, David looks for a place he can hide from God but he ends up confessing that there is no such place – God is present everywhere. Or as Dr. Jim Grier once said, “Instead of thinking of God as present everywhere, we should think of everything as being present before God.” Meditate on that one, it’ll blow your mind!
If God is present everywhere, why do we feel so all alone? Richard Rohr says, “We’re already in the presence of God. What’s absent is awareness.” How can we become more aware of God’s presence? Here are six places to look for God and a spiritual discipline to help you practice noticing God’s presence in the everyday stuff of life.
God is present in his creation.
Psalm 19 says that the heavens declare the glory of the Lord. Jesus talked about the birds of the air and the flowers of the field as illustrations of God’s loving care (Matthew 6). If you are willing to look with Spirit-led eyes, you will begin to see God in every blessing, the smile of a stranger, and in everyday things like eating and drinking (1 Corinthians 10:31). Each of these things points us to God and reminds us of his continual presence as both Creator and loving Father.
God is present in his people.
Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Matthew 18:20). Even though this statement is made in the context of church discipline, Jesus is making a general statement and applying it to a specific situation. In other words, when the church is gathered to know and do the will of God, Jesus is with them. God is present in the church.
We can see God’s presence in the reading and preaching of the Word. We can often know God’s presence as we pray together, especially as we seek wisdom from the Holy Spirit. The prayers of the saints are described as incense before God (Revelation 5:8). We’re even told that God inhabits (or is enthroned on) the praise of his people (Psalm 22:3).
God is present in your heart.
In biblical terms, the “heart” is the very core of the person. It directs the will, the mind, the personality, and everything that makes you, you. Romans 8:9 says that the Spirit of God dwells in believers. This means that as we become new creations in Christ and as we submit to the Holy Spirit, he changes us from the inside out – he changes our hearts. As we submit to the Spirit, he lives in us! This is what allowed Paul to say, “We have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16).
God is present in silence.
Do you remember when Elijah went up to mount Horeb to meet God (1 Kings 19)? God wasn’t in the wind, the earthquake, or the fire. He was in the sound of a still silence. Sometimes we need to take time away from everything to get still – to cease from our striving and work – and to listen for God in complete, reverent silence. Perhaps this is why the sons of Korah instruct us to “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
God is present in the wilderness.
Before Elijah went up on the mountain, before Moses spoke to Pharaoh, before Paul became the apostle to the Gentiles, they each met God in the wilderness. Often God uses the darkest and most depressing times of our lives to prepare us for future ministry. This “dark night of the soul” might be the way that God most often uses to bring about great spiritual growth. Pete Scazzero likes to ask God in these times, “God, how are you coming to me through this?” God is present even in our deepest pain if we are willing to listen to him.
Sometimes it’s even good to enter our own “wilderness” through extended times of silence and solitude with God. These times can be intense spiritual battles and hard-fought stilling of our hearts and minds. However, when we fight through the internal noise, we can sit silently in God’s presence and wait, should he decide to speak.
God is present in the circumstances of life.
George Mueller once said that when trying to discern God’s will he takes into account providential circumstances which often indicate God’s will – not on their own but in connection with the Spirit and the Word. God is present in every little moment of life. He is working all things together for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).
The Examen: A Spiritual Discipline for Noticing God’s Presence
A simple spiritual discipline called “the Examen” can be a useful tool for noticing God’s presence in everyday life. Here is how you can practice it:
Either just before going to bed or first thing in the morning, take a few deep breaths and ask the Holy Spirit to help you review the last 24 hours in his presence.
Ask yourself, “In the last day where did I notice God’s presence or grace?” As you notice each one, thank God for it.
Now ask yourself, “Where did I fail to notice God’s presence?” or “Where did I neglect God?” Just notice each one but don’t beat yourself up. Notice but don’t judge.
End by asking God to help you notice his presence more in the next 24 hours. Rest a few moments in his presence and enjoy his company.
How have you noticed God’s presence today? Leave a comment below.
Sean Nemecek, (M.Div. Grand Rapids Theological Seminary) is the director of The Pastor’s Soul, and pastor at First Baptist Church in Tustin, Michigan since 2001. A third-generation pastor, he grew up listening to pastors and their families talk about the realities of ministry. Now he wants to use this knowledge to bless the church. Sean is married to Amy, a poet and freelance book editor. Together, they have a 17-year-old son.