I’ve been thinking a lot about the presence of God and what that looks like in my life. In my Bible study, we have been studying Exodus 33, where God tells Moses that he will lead them into the promised land and given them milk and honey, but that his presence won’t go with them. Moses says no deal.
Essentially God says that he will give him everything he’s ever wanted except God’s own presence. Of course, knowing myself, I probably would have taken the deal. I really love God’s blessings. But Moses says no because he’s experienced the presence of God and knows that nothing else compares – the temporal joys of the flesh waste away and don’t fulfill.
I have had a few moments of sensing that presence – the calming, peaceful, joyful presence of God. I’ve known that I was held by him and loved by him and that everything else was dust.
Sitting in a hotel room after meeting the birthfamily of the children we were supposed to adopt, we knew it was over. While our hearts were breaking in a million pieces, I still felt joy. I felt joy knowing that my God would supply all my needs and that I had followed him to exactly the place he wanted me – broken, weeping, singing his praises.
When I heard my sweet baby cry for the first time, I finally believed that I was actually having a baby. I didn’t want to let myself believe it was true even as they were wheeling me into the operating room. I was terrified to hope. We were reciting Psalm 27, and then we heard him.
When I was recently at an orphanage in DRC, I was struck by the utter desperation – children left behind, evil men controlling the gate, poor women held captive – it was the closest I’ve ever been to what I imagine hell to be like. Except. There was the presence of God.
Even sitting there being lied to and video recorded by men who are profiting off of the destruction of lives, I could feel God’s calming hand upon me. I had an acute sense that God was watching and taking note of this hell on earth and that his justice would be meted out eventually. In the presence of terrifying circumstances, I felt no fear. I felt that I was exactly where God wanted me to be and therefore was utterly and completely safe.
It’s what spurs me on to keep fighting against this desire for fleshly satisfaction. While my flesh cries for approval, success, comfort, security, my soul cries for more of him. Some days my flesh wins, but sometimes it doesn’t, and on those days, I agree with Moses.
If your presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here. (Ex. 33:15)