Sunday, February 15, 2015
Room 314: God's Presence
In Psalm 139, David writes about how God is everywhere present. He writes, "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! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me." Psalm 139:7-10. While we can objectively know that God is always present, do we always subjectively feel His presence? My experience in Room 314, during my recent lengthy and unexpected hospital stay, shows how counter-intuitive and yet wonderful and re-assuring is a sense of God's presence. Throughout the evening of Sunday night, the 11th of January, and the early morning hours of the next day, I was in tremendous pain from the effects of the bacterial infection in my body. Even though I suffered from hallucinations and high fevers that prevented clear thought, I will never forget the distinct comfort of the sense of the presence of our Lord. I had the distinct emotional and spiritual sense that God was in this circumstance. In times such as this, when we have no earthly hopes, what a tremendous benefit it is to have a sense of the Lord's presence--knowing that whether we live or die, whether we succeed in our earthly endeavors, whatever happens--the Lord is truly with us and on our side. From my experience, it seems there are two qualifications to receiving that sense of His presence. First, we must be so humbled by our God-ordained circumstances that we are not then in a position to rely upon ourselves. We cannot be of a mindset where we think we can manage our circumstances on our own. In my case, I had become absolutely impotent to control everything in my life that, as of a few days previously, I thought I had well under my control: my family, my finances, my career, my physical condition. By reason of what the Lord stripped of me, I could not rely upon myself, and in my humility, God granted a sense of His presence. Second, we must ask for that sense of God's presence through prayer. My grandfather would pray daily that we would "have a sense of the Lord's presence as we walk and talk with Him." In my condition in Room 314, I was not in a position to offer up intelligent prayers. And yet God does not require intelligent, well-written or reasoned prayers--he only requires a heart seeking Him. Tim Keller writes, "Through prayer our somewhat abstract knowledge of God becomes existentially real to us. We do not just believe in the glory of God; we sense His greatness. We do not just believe that he loves us; we find our hearts flooded with it." I pray that my own experience in Room 314 will teach me to use strip myself of self-sufficiency and daily pray for a sense of the Lord's presence, that we might be encouraged to live in awe and wonder at His glorious attributes and what He is doing in us.