We live in a physical world of matter, so much so that naturalists believe this is all there is, that there couldn’t possibly be a supernatural realm as well. But what if the two are intertwined? God is omnipresent, which means he is everywhere: all at the same time. Have you ever pondered the infinity of the universe? The scientists say the universe is expanding – yet how is this possible? There is no “space” outside of space, so where does the room come from to expand into, so to speak? Well, think about it this way: if the universe exists within the omnipresent God, who is infinitely big, the universe can expand forever and ever and never come up against a wall. It’s fascinating to think about. But what’s my point? My point is that if you want to experience the presence of God, why not consider the senses as a gateway of sorts?
The omnipresence of God could be why pagans throughout history have been so inclined to worship nature. They sense (feel) the presence of God in his created things, but don’t necessarily look any further. So they worship the flower rather than the One who made it. It was God who created all matter and space – even linear time (the universe had a beginning). As C.S. Lewis said, “He likes matter; he invented it.” Being made of matter is what enables us to have a physical existence in a physical universe. It is also what makes it possible for us to feel the presence of God.
To be close to someone physically, we need to be in their presence.
Think of the infant whose attachment to mom is entirely through the senses. We need to either see the person, hear them, touch them, kiss them, smell them, or feel their spirit, to maintain a connection. The ways to achieve this are obvious with people and animals, but it may not be quite as obvious with God. Or so one might think.
As stated, God created matter, the earth, and all that is in it. He is Beauty Himself, Good Himself, and Love Himself. All beauty, goodness, and love pours forth from his generous Spirit, and he does not discriminate: “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:45) When the sun warms your back, it is his gift, his stamp, his warmth. Of course the sun is not God himself (that’s the mistake pagans make), the sun dwells within him and is a conduit. See, you are actually always in the presence of God, even when you don’t consciously feel anything. Psalm 139:7 says, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?“
So, since every good thing is a gift from God (James 1:17), here’s how you can consciously feel the presence of God every day:
The cool breeze that soothes your forehead is the hush of his breath as he whispers I love you. The raindrops are his tears: as they splash your skin, lift your face toward heaven and feel the very grief of his heart as it breaks for this suffering world. The butterflies and flowers are his signature: marks of his beauty and artistry. The lakes, his tranquility and proffered glass of cold water. The oceans, the depths of his genius; the waves, his passion, the saltiness, his wisdom. The downy fur of an animal, his gentle softness. The rocks and metals, his strength and fortitude. The leaves, his oxygen; the very breath of his lungs channeling through them. “In Him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28)
Even the cold current that lifts the goosebumps on your arms, the heat that stifles . . . are elements of his intricate and infinite personality. The comfort of home, clean sheets, clothing, food, water, entertainment, family – these are all gifts he has given. Thank him for each one as you receive them, and you enter his gates. Praise him and you enter his courts. Receive his gifts like opening the door to a knock, and you invite him in to sup with you (see Psalm 110:4 and Revelation 3:20). As the bridegroom, he’s always there at your side but like a gentleman, waits to first be welcomed into your heart and mind.
Sometimes we don’t know quite what we ask when we rail against God for his perceived lack of presence.
“Show yourself!” the atheists shout. Or as Richard Dawkins once said in an interview, Why does [he] takes such pains to hide [him]self? Yet in the Old Testament, the Israelites shrank from the presence of God, it was too much to bear – they felt like bugs under microscopes being scorched by a torrid sun – for he is a big God, so overwhelmingly and blindingly bright, that to gaze upon his face meant certain death. So he retreated and left them alone as they wished, for hundreds of years. But he couldn’t stay hidden forever. At a pivotal moment in history, along comes Christ, God in the flesh (Matthew 1:23), made of matter just like us – blood and bones, nail-pierced hands, compassionate brown eyes, and a genuine smile. He made himself approachable again, just as he once was in the Garden of Eden. The veil has been torn. He is “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15).
But still there’s more.
What do we say of the most war- and famine-torn countries where the landscapes are garbage heaps, the trees are barren, the earth parched, the water mud, and dirt-smudged children sit begging for a scrap of food? We call it God-forsaken Land. Yet Matthew 25:37-40 says this:
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ ”
In some mysterious way, when we see a starving child, a homeless person, a diseased person, or a prisoner who has been deprived by the wickedness of man of food, water, clothes, companionship, human rights, freedom, and health, we are actually seeing the crucified Christ – God Himself.
“He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering.” (Isaiah 53:3-4a)
So even in the midst of suffering, where God’s good gifts have been hindered from entering, stopped at the border, the presence of God still breaks through, for he is right there suffering and grieving with us.
What’s more, we are the Hands and Feet of Christ. When someone is grieving and Christians bring them hot meals, provide childcare, a shoulder to cry on and a listening ear – that’s Jesus giving us a hot meal and a warm hug. And when we are comforted, Jesus too is comforted. When the church fails to do their duty, they are failing Christ – both because he expects us to take care of others and because he suffers when we suffer. But why does he allow an incompetent church to be his Hands and Feet? I suppose for the same reason he allows incompetent parents to raise children. We all have free will, we are not automatons. In optimal circumstances, suffering is reduced and tears are wiped away; but because of wickedness and sin, sometimes suffering is unjustly increased instead. Again we must remember, he has promised this is temporary. One day it will all be made clear: “Now we see dimly as through a glass—then we shall see face to face” (1 Corinthians 13:12).
So as we continue our pilgrim journeys in these foreign lands, heading toward our true country where we shall finally see Jesus face to face, may we even now “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8).