Do you sometimes feel like God is far away?
Heartbreak, struggles, unanswered prayer, or just filling your schedule with everything but Him can make you believe God is distant. But Scripture abounds with evidence that He’s a relational God who wants to be up close and personal with you.
Psalm 139 assures us that God knows every detail of our lives and in verses 7-12, we read there’s nowhere we can go outside of His presence and away from His watchful eye. Furthermore, Hebrews 13:5 tells us He will never leave us, nor desert us. So, when we feel He’s far away, it’s often an indicator that we need to put ourselves in the position where we can sense His presence, hear His voice, notice His work around us, and invite Him closer to our hearts.
Here are seven ways you can notice—and truly know—that God is right next to you:
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1. Whisper His Name
There are times we need Him but we just don't know what to say or where to begin. Start by saying His name...and then speak your heart's cry. Scripture says there is power in the name of Jesus, not only because "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12), but because Jesus responds to His name when His loved ones call to Him.
The writers of the classics called this type of whispering cry “breath prayers.” My breath prayers to sense His presence are "Jesus, I need You" or "Jesus, give me a heart for You." Calling His name just as often as we breathe is one of the simplest ways to sense His presence. And I believe the simplest of cries are the ones that penetrate His heart—and ours—the quickest.
2. Cultivate a Humble Heart
James 4:6 tells us “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (NKJV). If we don’t want God to “resist” us because we’ve been resisting Him, James 4:7 instructs us to “submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you…”
James 4:8 continues by telling us to cleanse our hands and purify our hearts so we’re not double-minded, which means dabbling with one foot in God’s Word and the other foot in the world.
That passage of Scripture is not saying “clean up your act before God will come near.” If that were the case, none of us could be in God’s presence because we are incapable of cleaning up our act, ourselves. But when we consider that Jesus did what was necessary to clean us up and seal our inheritance as a child of God through His death for us on the cross, and we humbly surrender to His lordship, He is there waiting for us to indicate we want to go deeper.
A humble heart attracts the heart of God, so acknowledge to Him that you long for His presence as the sons of Korah did in Psalm 42.
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3. Believe He is Near
Too often we don’t feel like God is near. Yet, God wants our faith that He is who His Word says He is and He will do what He promises—regardless of what our feelings and emotions tell us. Scripture says the "righteous shall live by faith" (Romans 1:17) and "without faith it is impossible to please Him" (Hebrews 11:6). Therefore, we shouldn't have to feel God to know He's there. In fact, relying on our feelings is a direct contradiction to faith. Tell God you believe He’s there...and talk to Him, by faith, believing He is.
Hebrews 11:1 tells us faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Be assured and convicted of His presence and you will not only sense Him, you will please His heart.
4. Walk with Him
Scripture indicates God longs to walk with His created. After God made Adam and Eve, and they chose to rebel against Him, Scripture records God “walking in the garden in the cool of the day,” looking for His beloved, desiring their company, their companionship, the unity they once shared as they walked together. Scripture records the account, years later, of a man named Enoch who “walked faithfully with God” for 300 years.
You don’t have to be living in the Old Testament to walk closely with God. Today, we have the atoning work of Jesus to bring us back into close communion and daily fellowship with God. And that means we can have an even closer walk with Him than anyone did prior to Jesus’s death on the cross.
So, get outside and walk in your garden, in a park, through a meadow or woods, along the beach, or through a quiet part of your neighborhood. There’s something therapeutic about walking and talking to God, especially when you remember you have the privilege of walking with Him in the cool of the day as if He was right there—because He is.
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5. Take a Divine Pause
Sometimes we can't sense God's presence because there's too much of everything else going on. Too much noise. Too much traffic. Too much confusion. Too much anxiety. Too many voices and thoughts running through our minds. Center your mind on Him (Colossians 3:1-2) and start to breathe deeply. Try it:
Exhale the distracting thoughts. Inhale a desire to sense His presence.
Exhale your pre-occupation with self. Inhale a desire to know Him more completely.
Exhale the worries of the moment. Inhale His peace.
6. Read His Word Aloud
God speaks to us through His Word. And one of the best ways to sense His presence is to get into His Word and ask His Holy Spirit to guide you into a better understanding of it. When you get into God’s Word, and even speak it audibly, you will sense its power and His presence. The Bible says God's Word is "living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword" (Hebrews 4:12).
That sharp sword will prick your heart through conviction, inspiration, enlightenment, or determination. A pricked heart is better than a numb, dull, or complacent heart any day, so get into His Word and find Him there.
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7. Start Praising Him
God inhabits the praises of His people.
Ever wondered why you sometimes feel closer to God when you're in a church service, singing hymns or praise songs? It could be because that's where worship tends to take place. But you don’t have to be in a church building or even with other believers to worship Him.
Worship is praising and acknowledging His “worth ship” wherever you are and in whatever situation you are in. Worship is surrender. Worship is giving Him your time, talents, and treasure.
When you start praising Him, regardless of where you are, you'll sense His presence—probably because you're no longer focused on yourself, but on Him. When we open the door of our hearts to love Him, He will meet us there. Every time.
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Originally published Wednesday, 01 July 2020.