The Presence and Action of God

A common question in spiritual direction is to wonder how God has been present and active in one’s life.  This is a challenging question because it assumes you can know, when many people doubt the very existence of God and others are quick to deny that God could have done something good for you when God didn’t do something good for someone else.

While there is no formula for how God is present and active in one’s life, and no certainty, because the divine is beyond our comprehension, there are particular kinds of experiences that draw me to make that claim and reveal the image of God that I hold.  There are times when something that happens brings life and energy and tears of joy and gratitude and deep peace.  This is easy to imagine if something good occurs, such as a successful surgery.  But it can also happen in the midst of misery when a tiny ray of light breaks through, such as when the partner left behind experiences the comforting presence or a word from the partner who died.

A sense of being accompanied; circumstances rolling out that leave one door open and then the next and the next; finding oneself in the right place at the right time, when you didn’t know from reason that things would work that way—all these touches that I have known feel like being in the flow of God’s living stream, or in the energy-field of God’s love.  The way things play out is far beyond what I might have orchestrated.  There is a different feel, physically and spiritually, and gratitude pours forth.

Finding oneself spoken to by a dream or a passage of scripture or the words of a hymn or song that simply shows up in your mind; getting a sense that something is to be and the sense grows or deepens or is affirmed by your spiritual community or companions; being awed by something you see or that happens—all point beyond us, taking us out of our ego smallness and open us to love and oneness.

I believe that God is in the midst of such experiences, and that each of us and the world around us benefit from such awareness of and attentiveness to the Holy.

Queries:

What is your image of God and how does that impact how you experience, or don’t experience, God’s presence and action?

Do you think God may be present even when you have a sense of God’s absence?

Prayer:

Look back over a period of time—a day, a week, a year—and see if you can be aware of a sense of holiness, or of having blocked such a possibility.  Listen to your heart’s song.

For further reference:

“My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast . . . for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy” (see Psalm 63).

“Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias.  The Lord said to him in a vision, ‘Ananias.’  He answered, ‘Here am I, Lord.” (See Acts 9: 1-19.)

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7 thoughts on “The Presence and Action of God

  1. Patty,

    I like your entire post, but the “sense of being accompanied” paragraph really speaks to me. What you say there is consonant with what I have come to understand about my life, especially my adulthood. I would add to your perspective my experience that, even when I wonder where/if God is in an experience, there’s a good chance I will eventually have an affirmative answer. Ralph Waldo Emerson said something like, “What I have seen gives me faith in what I have not seen.” I am developing a deeper love for the Psalms, and this is one of the truths they reveal to me.

    Franchot

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  2. The words you have shared speak of this mystery so well, Patty. So many memories come to mind, but particularly when Bob and I silently sat in a Serbian garden with our Serb hostess and a Hungarian Friends pastor. We spoke neither Serbian nor Hungarian, yet I was overwhelmed by the Presence confirming that I was in the right place at the right time…. and that affirmation continues.

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  3. Dear Patty,
    Your post speaks to a vital need among people of faith, a need to recognize Presence within and around us by whatever name. Then we can give thanks, decide to join or collaborate with what God is doing, and continue to grow in faith. I like how you name the skepticism up front. My sense is that these experiences are part of the human condition, though less often recognized and acknowledged as markers of something Holy.

    Noticing is the core of the inner life with the Spirit. There are many “markers” I look for in my own life, and in others’ lives that I accompany in Spirit, and your list will be very helpful!

    I love that you mention “can also happen in the midst of misery.” So I’ll add one of my own “signs of Life”: solidarity in suffering. It’s more than person-to-person empathy with those in pain or with tragic situations in the world. It’s a standing alongside, profoundly “with” others, in some way that echoes God’s Presence “with us” in the challenges, despair, bleakness…. “Solidarity in suffering” seems to me to reflect that of “God-between-us” bringing Light and hope in the darkest Night. That works from either direction—standing with another, or being stood beside when no sense of Presence seems possible.

    Other signs of Holy Presence and Action between us would be a great topic for another post, Patty! I’d look forward to it!
    with loving gratitude,
    Chris Hall

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  4. I’d like to add to your list of ways we can experience God’s presence in our lives an experience I’ve had many times: A spiritual experience will suggest I do something I really, really don’t want to do. Always the experience includes the strong sense that I am not being asked for my obedience; it’s more like, I can do whatever i want, but if I choose as God has suggested, it’s in my own best interest. I’m being asked not to do the “right” thing, but the “least worst” thing. What makes it “least worst” is that it’s in my best interest in the long term. A short term feel-good “solution” is a whole lot more grief in the long term. That sense that I can decide for myself, with no pressure, plus a palpable sense that I am loved….Those experiences are so precious. I cherish them each time one occurs. Blessings on thee, Patty, for this affirmation of how God manifests in our lives!

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  5. I like the way you put it: “being in the flow of God’s living stream, or in the energy-field of God’s love.” To me, God is like the sun, always shining forth. My perceptions of that radiating LOVE are woefully incomplete, People who take risks for Truth help me see how I can be bolder and freer, and thus more fully “in the energy-field.” Like Barbar Gosney, I have experienced God in unexpected situations — for example in Palestine when I was visiting conservative Islamic leaders and the air became dense like a gathered Meeting for Worship that was permeated by a familiar, loving Presence. It was God’s wordless Call to Openness, which is always at least slightly jolting.

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