“And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Presence can make the act of sitting through a terrifying movie more bearable. Presence can make a nervous child more courageous. Presence can strengthen and encourage in powerful ways.
Presence can also cause a tempted eye to avoid the glance. Presence can make a child who’s considering disobedience choose to obey. Presence can remind and convict in powerful ways.
I don’t spent a lot of time considering presence (although I’ve written a bit about the topic previously), but, after a few minutes of consideration, I can easily list some important benefits of presence. I feel its absence when I am alone. I rest in its comfort when I am with friends. Presence plays an important role in my life even though I don’t often consider it.
Immanuel, God with us (Matthew 1:23), promised his presence to his followers after commissioning them for service. If you are a Christian, then Jesus is with you. Christ’s presence with us is a profoundly beautiful truth, one which I don’t doubt, at least not theologically. Yet after reading Brother Lawrence’s short book The Practice of the Presence of God and encountering his method of living daily focused upon the presence of God, I realized that, while I might affirm the reality of Christ’s presence in theory, I don’t live like I believe that truth.
Brother Lawrence’s book emphasized simply focusing on the reality of God’s presence with us and then allowing that truth to work itself out in everyday life. As Lawrence focused upon the Lord, even the most common of chores became for Lawrence an opportunity for worship. His method seems simple (and, admittedly, it is), but his method is also profound. As I read his book, I was reminded of an important truth: God’s presence with his people is an objective reality and not a subjective experience. In other words, God is with us regardless of whether or not we feel him with us. Our perception may vary; his presence does not.
What might this truth mean for our daily lives? How might our existence change if we began to live with an eye to his presence with us? I think three big things would change (probably more than three, but, for the sake of space, we’ll consider only three). First, we’d be more bold in our obedience. If we recognized that Jesus is not only in our message but is also in our midst, we may speak of him (and to him) more boldly, trusting in his authoritative, sending call (Matthew 28:18-20). Second, we’d be more disciplined in our devotion. How would our approach to temptation change if we began to live in the recognition that the one who overcame the greatest temptation is with us (see Matthew 4)? Would we not fight against the flesh more vigilantly if we understood the reality of Christ’s presence with us, the one who died that we might die to sin (see Romans 6)? Third, we’d walk in deeper peace. While suffering is expected in this life, the one who has overcome the world is with us here and now (see John 16). We need not fear any danger or despair or devil, for nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (see Romans 8:31-39).
If you are a believer, you are never for a moment apart from your Savior and Lord. So be encouraged, Christian. Recognize the reality of your Savior’s presence with you and take heart. When you cannot feel him, he’s with you. When you don’t understand what the Lord is doing, he’s with you. In the midst of joy, he’s with you. In the midst of suffering, he’s with you. In the midst of any situation you face, he’s with you. So trust him. Rest in him. Hope in him. And walk in light of his presence with us.