I Want to Believe, But…Goose Bump God
It can be difficult to believe in a God we cannot see. We wonder why God didn’t answer our prayers, why God allows suffering, or why we can’t feel His presence. God may not meet all your expectations—but that’s not necessarily bad news. In this four week series, I want to believe in God, but…we’ll discuss four different versions of “God” which don’t exist—they’re fabrications people often want to believe about the nature of God. This week is goose bump God – why don’t I feel the presence of God in my life?
Something To Talk About:
People often say, “I just can’t feel God. Others seem to have no trouble feeling God. I want to feel His presence pass over and through me, I want to hear His voice and His direction for my life. So I pray. I spend time reading and meditating on scripture. But nothing. Not even a whisper. What gives?
- Maybe you are over sensationalizing it: In the first week we talked about on demand God; we think of God as a magic genie that we keep on the shelf until troubles arise or there is something our neighbor has that we really want. The problem is, real relationships don’t work this way. Instead, scripture is clear that all of life—and, principally, the gospel life—is about being in God’s presence. But there are times when we don’t feel God’s presence. There are times when we don’t feel God in our circumstances. Feelings are not the only evidence of the presence of God. The Psalms are full of the emotional ups and downs of a relationship with God. Most Christians have rarely experienced a “feeling” of God’s presence. Faith isn’t the same as feelings. Thomas’ encounter with the risen Christ must have been amazing, yet Jesus said “…blessed are those who believe without seeing me.” (John 20:29) In searching to know God’s presence, it’s tempting to follow rules. But generating a checklist in our head won’t deliver God’s presence. There is no magical formula. We are all individuals and God relates to us each in a unique way. And since we are emotional beings, we may be over sensationalizing it. You want to know God. You want to feel it, yet you’re looking for the audible voice. Let me just tell you this: God doesn’t always reveal himself that way. There are times where you may feel Him. There are times where you may not.
- Maybe your heart is hardened: Sometimes amidst the setbacks and disappointments of life, our hearts get hardened. Matthew 13:14-15 says, “This fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah that says, ‘When you hear what I say, you will not understand. When you see what I do, you will not comprehend. For the hearts of these people are hardened, and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes—so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and let me heal them.” The problem then is not in a God who no longer wants to have fellowship with us. Rather, the problem is within us. When we have hardened our hearts against God, and we realize that we are in a mess, we find ourselves in a dilemma. We may know that our only hope is to seek God, but our hearts are persistent in trying to keep us at a distance from God. So, what then is the antidote for a heart condition such as this? First seek God and He will help us to see our heart’s condition: “Search me, O God, and know my heart…Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” (Psalm 139:23–24). God can heal any heart once we recognize our disobedience and repent of our sins. But true repentance is more than simply a resolution, it is manifested in a changed life.
- Maybe God wants to draw you closer: Contrary to popular opinion, Christianity is not just about emotions or feeling close to God. Yes, we experience emotions and yes, sometimes we feel close to God and sense His presence. Christianity, however, is not grounded in these subjective feelings; it is grounded in the Word of God and Jesus Christ. Some Christians rely too heavily on their experiences and feelings, instead of relying on the Scriptures and what God says.“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4:8 ESV) This verse makes a bold statement; if we draw near to God, He will draw near to us. There may be those times, and this is just me suggesting it, that you may not feel God because God wants to bring you to a place where you have more of a desire for Him. If we don’t sense the presence of God, we might need to start hungering and thirsting for God.
- Do emotions keep us from hearing God? Do emotions play in becoming the person God wants us to become?
- Have you ever had a “season of dryness” concerning God’s presence in your life?
- Are there ways you already practice God’s presence without realizing it? Give an example. How do you most often experience God? How do you think you’ve come to experience God this way?
- “It isn’t a matter of achieving God’s presence, but surrendering to God’s presence that is already within the Christian.” Do you agree with that statement? Why or why not?
- Of Marty’s three points, which do you most identify with? You might not always feel God because: you’re over sensationalizing it, your heart has hardened, or God wants you closer. Why?
- Is anything making it difficult for you to see God’s presence in your life? Is there something you need to stop or start?
Take One Thing Home with You:
What does God’s presence feel like? What does that friend mean when he or she says, “I felt God’s presence this week in a special way.” There are others who hear someone say something like that and they don’t get it, they don’t understand. It makes them wonder if I’m really getting all this God stuff or are am I doing something wrong. I want to feel God’s presence, but since I don’t I must be a weak, immature Christian. As we talked about this Sunday, God’s presence “feels like” different things to different people, and even different ways in different circumstances. It goes beyond a feeling, or sense of presence or an emotion. The difficulty is when people look for manifestations of His presence, rather than simply seeking Him.
The fact is you are never alone. God promised to never leave you nor forsake you. It may seem like you are alone, that you cannot sense His presence. But it is at these times that you must choose to believe that He is there. You must believe that He is there solely based on the fact that the Bible says it.