Is it possible to feel God’s presence?
This question brings to mind the story of Darlene Deibler Rose. Rose was a young American missionary in the jungles of New Guinea who survived four years of captivity in Japanese prison camps during World War II. When Rose tells her story, she describes how a powerful sense of God’s loving presence sustained her through beatings, horrible illnesses, the cruelties of her captors, and the death of her husband.
Toward the end of Rose’s story of imprisonment, she tells of being in solitary confinement and severely malnourished. In spite of her outward difficulties, she had continued to feel inner peace. Then, things changed. She writes:
“Quite suddenly and unexpectedly, I felt enveloped in a spiritual vacuum. ‘Lord, where have You gone? Why have You withdrawn Your presence from me? O Father…’ In panic I jumped to my feet, my heart frantically searching for a hidden sin, for a careless thought, for any reason why my Lord should have withdrawn his presence from me. My prayers, my expressions of worship, seemed to go no higher than the ceiling; there seemed to be no sounding board. I prayed for forgiveness, for the Holy Spirit to search my heart. To none of my petitions was there any apparent response.”
Rose spent the night crying out to God, searching for a reason why He had withdrawn her ability to feel his presence. When no answer came, she prayed: “Lord, I believe all that the Bible says. I do walk by faith and not by sight. I do not need to feel You near, because your Word says You will never leave me nor forsake me. Lord, I confirm my faith; I believe.”
She says, “The words of Hebrews 11:1 welled up, unbeckoned, to fill my mind: ‘Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.’ Evidence not seen’—that was what I put my trust in—not in feelings or moments of ecstasy, but in the unchanging Person of Jesus Christ. It was faith stripped of feelings, faith without trappings.”
I believe that we can feel God’s presence, and that we should eagerly seek it. But we cannot base our faith on a foundation of emotional experience. If we base our faith on feelings, when the feelings go, the faith will flee. Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Faith is also being sure of what we do not feel. If a commitment to Christ assured us that we would always feel his presence, faith would not be required of us.
Faith is required of the Christian, and it will carry us through the times when feelings fail us. But, praise God, faith is not something we must conjure up on our own. He provides even that as a gift from His hand. He will give you the faith you need.
Yours in Faith,