20180513

Appreciating Our Fully Present God

There is much in my life as a parent that points me to a truth about God. Sometimes, it's a parallel truth, like the fact that I discipline my children for their good, as God does in my own life (though my discipline is far from perfect!). 

Other times, my life as a parent points to a stark contrast between myself and God. While I can't be available to both my kids at the same time, God is always present for us.

One of God's attributes is his omnipresence. 
This means he is present everywhere in creation. There is no where we could go that God is not also there because he fills all of creation. He is not confined to space or time. There are no limits or boundaries that restrict him. And no one can hide from his presence. "Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!" (Psalm 139:7-8).

This is hard for our finite minds to grasp—with bodies that can only occupy one space at a time. It's hard for me to imagine—as a mom who is daily tugged and pulled in different directions. We often try to think of God's omnipresence in terms we understand, but because God is a spirit, he doesn't take up space the way an object or person takes up space. He is everywhere all the time. "Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the Lord" (Jeremiah 23:24).

Not only is God always present, he is always fully present. Theologians sometimes call this the immensity of God. This means he is completely accessible to us. He doesn't partially listen to our prayers because he is focused on another person's prayers at the same time. He doesn't get busy in one part of the world and neglect the other part. He is never distracted, stretched, overwhelmed, burdened, pulled, or pressured by the demands of others. He is fully engaged and attentive to his children.

God always gives us his full attention. Unlike my children calling and searching for me, we don't have to do that with God; he is right there with us. Unlike my children having to wait their turn to receive my attention, we don't have to wait for our turn with God. We never have to schedule an appointment. God is always with us.

Sometimes, we talk about how we sense God's presence more in certain circumstances or in specific locations. Some may say they sense God's presence when they sit on the beach or hike on a mountain trail. The truth is, God is not more present in those places than in others. It may be that he allows us to "feel" his presence more in some situations. It's also likely that when we are less distracted by our daily responsibilities and cares, we are able to focus our thoughts on God. When we spend time in his creation—rather than stuck behind a cubicle or with our face glued to a screen—we are reminded of who he is and respond in wonder and awe.

With that said, there are times where we are promised his presence in a unique way: when we take the Lord's Supper and when we are gathered with the people of God in worship. In addition, there may also be times when God makes us "feel" his presence less, perhaps as a form of discipline or for some other divine reason (Psalm 89:46). It doesn't mean that he is any less present. He is always with us, even when we don't "feel" like he is.

The doctrine of God's omnipresence is comforting and reassuring. We are never left alone. We are always—at all times and in all places—in the presence of God. We can cry out to him and know that he hears us. We can trust that he is always with us.

This truth should make us respond in praise and worship, "Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable" (Psalm 145:3).

[written by Christina Fox]