Knowing God's Presence Even When You Can't Feel It
Have you ever lost something only to realize it was right in front of you the whole time? Or felt that sense of panic when you’re at a concert or sporting event and the person you’re with just vanishes into the crowd?
This happens to me all the time with my dog.
You’re probably wondering if I take my dog to large, crowded areas and then somehow manage to lose her. The answer would be no, I do not. But I do take her to a nearby park where the back half is heavily wooded. Once we get there, I let Scout off the leash and she bolts into the woods to chase whatever she can find. You name it, she’s chased it.
Most of the time I can see her feather duster tail [see the picture below for reference] between the trees or hear her dog tags clink together. But there are times when she’s out of sight for what seems like the longest two minutes of my life.
Now, the back half of the park is all fenced in, so she isn’t really lost, but in those moments where I’m calling and calling for her, panic begins to set it. As I’m about to enter the woods, thinking she’s injured or caught on something, she slowly emerges, panting in exhaustion after whatever woodland creature she just chased away. Relief washes over me and we continue walking through the park to repeat this process at least two more times before heading home.
Moments like these remind me that the presence of a person, pet, or that one lost thing can make all the difference. But eventually, as life continues, there will be a time where we will have to move forward in our lives without that someone or something that meant the world to us.
I can’t imagine what the disciples felt like that Saturday after Jesus died and was buried. I can only assume they were panicked, anxious, and full of confusion. Jesus’ physical presence had made all the difference in their lives. And while you and I today know that God was still with them and over every part of their lives, from their perspective, He was gone.
I think there a lot of times we find ourselves feeling the same way the disciples felt that Saturday. We’re following Jesus but don’t feel His closeness in our lives. We feel anxious or alone, almost as if we’ve lost something and are trying to find it again.
The good news is that we don’t have to live in the Saturday mindset because of what happened Sunday. On Easter Sunday, Jesus rose victoriously from the grave, conquering sin, death, and every moment of unrest, anxiety, and isolation. Not only did He overcome these things, but He also made a promise to His disciples, and to us, at the close of Matthew 28. “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” -Matthew 28:20
Even though Jesus may no longer be here physically, in-flesh, He is with us always. And even when we can’t physically see Him; we can see all the ways He’s been present with us.
In the few verses ahead of Matthew 28:20, we see that after His resurrection Jesus took His disciples up to a mountain top. “Now, the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.” — Matthew 28:16
Why is this significant? Because Galilee was the place where their story started with Jesus. In a recent sermon written by Pastor Stephen Zarrilli, he puts it into perspective like this,
“From the mountain they could have looked down over so many of the villages and communities where they were trained by Jesus and served together. The mountain gave them perspective. Maybe they could see where he took a few fish and five loaves and fed 5,000 families or maybe they looked down and remembered exactly where Jesus walked on the water…Every place they look would remind them of the places where Jesus’ presence made all the difference.”
Maybe in the moments when we don’t feel God’s presence, we need to take a trip back up the mountain and look out over the landmarks in our lives. The ones that remind us He was with us the whole time — and still is. When that familiar feeling of fear and uncertainty creeps in, may we remember those words in Matthew 28, that God is with us ALWAYS.