Have you ever wondered where God is? Or, why He has left you all alone? One thing we know for sure is that God promises He will never leave us. So, how do we know He is there? Read more as Nan Jones shares 5 practical ways to find evidence of God’s abiding presence in our suffering.
On a recent episode of Your Hope Filled Perspective podcast, I chatted with Nan about how to maintain our hope when we feel abandoned by God. If you missed that episode, you can listen here [Hope for When You Feel Abandoned By God – Episode 117]. During those times when we feel alone, we so desperately need evidence of God’s abiding presence.
5 Practical Ways to Find Evidence of God’s Abiding Presence in Our Suffering
By Nan Jones
Have you ever wanted to stomp your feet, abruptly place hands on hips, and hurl accusations at God for abandoning you in your darkest hour? You are not alone. Abandonment. That seems to be our knee-jerk reaction when things go terribly wrong, “God, where are You? Why did You leave me in this gut-wrenching place all alone?”
I have come to realize ─ to know in my knower ─ that in those darkest hours, the Lord is as near to us as the air we breathe. He promised in Psalm 34:18, “The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” He is not a man that He should lie.
This is the good news, but how do we get there? How do we see beyond our circumstances and recognize His abiding presence?
To begin with, we must be honest with the Lord. Don’t sugar-coat our emotions. He already knows our heart, but He wants us to trust Him enough to be honest with Him. Consider the examples of Moses and Elijah.
In Exodus 33 God and Moses are having a bit of an argument. It was right after the incident with the Golden Calf. Tempers are still flaring. It’s time for the people to start journeying toward the Promised Land again, but God tells Moses He’s not going with them, “for I will not go up in your midst lest I consume you on the way for you are a stiff-necked people” (Exodus 33:3).
Moses says, “Wait a minute! These are YOUR people, not mine. If You’re not going with us, we’re not going!” (Exodus 33:12-13, paraphrased). Read it from The Message, “Moses said to GOD, “Look, You tell me, ‘Lead this people,’ but You don’t let me know whom You’re going to send with me. You tell me, ‘I know you well and you are special to Me.’ If I am so special to You, let me in on Your plans. That way, I will continue being special to you. Don’t forget, this is your people, your responsibility.”
I love that exchange of authenticity – an expression of genuine faith.
Elijah is another example.
In 1 Kings 19:1-4, Elijah had just defeated and killed 450 prophets of Baal ─ an incredible miracle of God! Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done and now she is threatening to kill Elijah. He runs for his life. After a day’s journey into the wilderness, verse 4, “[Elijah] came and sat down under a juniper tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, ‘It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!’”
Can you hear the desperation in his voice? This mighty man of God has had enough and wants to die! I love his honesty before God.
But it’s important to take a look at God’s response to Elijah’s honesty: The Lord sent an angel to him with a cake and a jar of water to strengthen him for the rest of the journey. Can you sense God’s tenderness to His child who is hurting?
God is big enough to handle our tantrums. Yes, He is Almighty God, but He is also our Heavenly Father who loves us with an everlasting love. In the past when I became too overwhelmed by crushing emotional pain, my tendency was to shut down, and shut out the Lord. I built a strong wall of separation between us because in my heart of hearts I felt like He had abandoned me.
And I was angry and hurt.
But now I’ve learned this is a lie of the enemy. God is faithful to His Word ─ He will never leave us nor forsake us. I’ve learned to awaken the eyes of my heart to recognize Him drawing near to comfort me. I’ve come to understand that He has been by my side through every inconsolable sob and flowing tear.
What can I do to recognize God’s abiding presence?
1. Begin with honesty before Him
He is big enough to take the tantrum, and good enough to comfort His child afterward. Chances are He is grieved by your circumstances also! This is a fallen world where bad things happen to good people, but the glorious truth is that we have a Heavenly Father who desires to journey this road with us. When we pass through the turbulent water, we won’t drown because He is with us. When we pass through the fiery trials, we won’t burn because He is with us. (Isaiah 43:2).
2. Speak the Name of Jesus
Often. If you are too overwhelmed to pray, speak His Name. That is sufficient. The Lord responds to the sound of His Name. His Name embodies all that we need.
3. Search the Psalms
David is a wonderful example of authentic faith. He did not hide his emotions from the Lord. When he was afraid, he said so. When he was angry and questioning God, he said so. When he was depressed and discouraged, he said so. BUT THEN David always encouraged himself in the Lord. David felt the freedom to ask God questions without questioning who God is. He knew who God is through relationship.
4. Create a sanctuary
As your heart begins to soften, create a sanctuary where you can just be ─ be with the One who loves you. Not striving. Not producing. Not distracted by a myriad of responsibilities. Just be. It may be a porch. I know someone who sits in her car. It may be a closet, or a special chair by a soothing window. Somewhere you can call on the Name of Jesus and rest in His presence, a place you can be still and remember that He is God.
5. Fill your home with praise
Fill your home with praise, especially when you don’t want to. Praise changes things – it changes hearts, it pushes the enemy of our soul out the door. When we can’t praise God for our circumstances, we can always praise Him for who He is. There are days I let praise music play all day long, even when I’m gone from home, because I want the Spirit of God to be welcome in my home and fill the atmosphere with His presence.
Friend, if I can leave you with anything, it is this: You are loved by a magnificent God. He pursues us in our wilderness places and finds us. Why? Because He is Jehovah Roi, The God Who Sees Me and knows all about it. Your pain is justified, your anger, your sorrow, your despair … it is all justified. But don’t allow the enemy of your soul to get you stuck there. It will eat you alive. Give God a chance – have your tantrum, and then fall into His everlasting arms and allow Him to restore your life.
About Nan Jones
God has called Nan Jones to help others find Him in their darkest hour. Through the written word and the spoken voice of her heart, she shares with you how to see beyond the veil to recognize God’s abiding presence—through good and bad, joy and sorrow, peace and anguish. Nan’s book, The Perils of a Pastor’s Wife, was a 2016 Selah finalist and Badge of Honor winner. Her award-winning blog, Beyond the Veil, is touching Christians internationally who feel abandoned or forgotten by God, but want to learn to recognize His presence. Nan delights in ministering as speaker and teacher wherever women are gathered. She travels from the mountains of western North Carolina.