I’m naturally a skeptic. It takes a large amount of convincing for me to believe that something is happening, or that something is real, without seeing it for myself.
The list of instances in my life like this is a mile long.
- I was skeptical about moving to Nashville actually working out back in February.
- I was skeptical that Trump was actually going to win the Republican nomination. Still kind of skeptical that it’s real, but that’s beside the point.
- I’m still skeptical about the fact that I’m where I’m supposed to be, and that I’ll be able to either get back into ministry or do anything with music full-time.
- I’m skeptical about finding any job other than working at a restaurant.
I could continue, but that would be belaboring my point.
If I’m super honest, sometimes I still have doubts about if God is listening or working in my life. There are times when I feel like my prayers are just utterances into the air, and times when I can’t feel God’s presence.
Maybe you’ve been there too. Maybe you’ve had your doubts about God, or about God being present at all. Maybe you’re there right now, wondering if your tough situation will end soon, if you’ll get a job, if your prayers will be answered at all.
After being in church ministry for a few years, and sitting in lectures upon lectures about the different denominations, what they believe, and why they exist, I feel like I’m finally able to call myself a church history nerd. Here’s why that’s important: our current denominations have division and find their existence over how God’s presence is manifested.
While I know enough to be dangerous, I am no expert. These are just surface level explanations about the differences; nothing exhaustive, just basic information.
- Baptists, while not outright denying the continuation of the spiritual gifts, hold to a stance that, in summary, amounts to the fact that God works primarily through Scripture, more or less limiting revelation to the canon.
- Pentecostals/Charismatics rely more consistently on the spiritual gifts, maintaining that revelation and inspiration are still occurring independent from Scripture.
- Presbyterians are primarily staunchly in their stance that revelation is only through Scripture, and that the spiritual gifts were only for use in the early Church.
Like I said, not exhaustive by any means, but the major denominational stances differ quite vastly.
On the regular, I find myself asking for signs. I seem to be asking for God to prove His existence. Yeah, I led a ministry and led within ministries, but I have my moments where I lack faith and ask for signs.
This isn’t new to God. This isn’t some newly asked question of Him. In fact, it’s probably the most commonly asked question in our prayers, not just in present days, but in days of old as well.
- Moses met face-to-face with God, showing the Israelites that this was a sacred practice of meeting with God.
- All throughout the Old Testament, God’s presence was physically manifested in the Holy of Holies in the Tent Of Meeting, making it a regular practice for the Jews to ask God’s Spirit to fall.
- When the Israelites went into exile, there was a physical exit of the presence of God from the temple, leading the Jews to ask for God’s presence to return.
- Jesus even said the Jews were a people of signs and wonders.
Look at John 4:48, when Jesus was talking to the woman at the well.
So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.”
God knows that we are looking for proof. He knows that we want some sort of tactile representation to confirm that He’s real. He knows that I still have my doubts when times are hard and I can’t feel Him working.
From personal experience, here’s what I’ve learned about this subject: God never leaves us, but there are times where He does allow us to listen to ourselves in order to see our selfishness. By letting us hear how self-centered we are, He reminds us that His life and His operation is about Him and not us.
It’s like He places a mirror in front of us to really see who we are, revealing our weaknesses and our imperfections so we can stop and say, “Okay, God. I’m listening. Some might call this what John Chrysostom called the “Dark Night Of The Soul,” where God seems distant and quiet but is in fact just as close as He has ever been.
The truth, however hard it is to remember, is that we as believers are never without God’s presence. Through the coming of the Holy Spirit, we have unfettered access to His grace, mercy, and love, and we can approach the throne without hesitation.
When it seems like God’s presence is absent, here’s what I tell myself:
- God will never leave nor forsake me (Deut. 31:6).
- As His temple, His Spirit dwells within me (1 Cor. 3:16).
- There’s nothing that could separate me from Him (Rom. 8:31-39).
- God’s timing is perfect, and His answers always come when they’re supposed to (Rom. 5:6).
Yeah, it sometimes really sucks when things are so far from being ideal, and when it feels like God is silent, but we have this hope that God is for those whom He has redeemed, and if we seek Him, He will be found.