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A friend of mine lost her husband last week. When a lady we know asked if my friend would like someone to come and stay with her, “so she wouldn’t be alone,” my friend replied, “I’m not alone, the Lord is with me.”

I love that. Unfortunately, as I look back on dark times in my life, one common element is that at the darkest hours, I cannot feel the presence of the Lord. I would love to be able to climb up on the lap of Abba Father. I would love to push my face into his everlasting arms and weep. But the darkest part of the darkness, is that in that hour, I “know” He is there. But I don’t “feel” His presence.

So, my questions are:
1. Is it just me, or does everyone have this experience?
2. How does one cultivate a felt sense of the Lord’s presence?
3. Am I just whining?

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Just thought I'd add a couple more Q's:

Is there such a thing as 'feeling' God's presence? Or is it just that, a feeling? A workup of the psyche of the mind?
Is it a real presence? Is it mere emotion?
Is 'cultivat(ing) a felt sense' just that? Us working ourselves into a place of spiritual comfort with where we are theologically and mentally?

Just ask'n.

I have always liked Michael Card's song that touches a bit on the subject.
Feeling is emotional, and although it's essential to us, it's not an especially reliable indicator. I find that the Lord's presence is most felt when I am in fellowship with other believers, when His Word is revealed in study, and when I see His hand move in my life. It's tangible but I can't seem to hold onto it or summon it up. It's mostly just through faithfulness, and that, much more so on His part than mine.

Whining is OK, but it's not becoming behavior on the part of a good soldier--it's only allowed because we are also His children.
But so often people's reactions to tragedy will vary. I tend towards having delayed reactions. In the moment, I'm cool. But afterwards is when it hits. I also don't think its wise to impose our responses on others, according to how we would react to the same situation. People are different and will have different responses to situations. I say give the woman her space but the saints should make known that they are there for her when she needs it.

xulon said:
Um, I kinda think this woman is in some kind of self-absorbed spiral and needs someone to be with her. It's nice to be "spiritual" and all, but there's denial here.

Everybody has this experience including the Psalmists (42 for one)

Check out Brother Lawrence's book, but I think God actually withdraws our sense of His presence. It's too much a part of Christian Biography.

Maybe, but I whine about the same thing.
That sounds like the kind of thing C.S. Lewis would call looking at the beam ("Is it just...") rather than looking through the beam to what the beam reveals.

Orthodoxy is easy, it involves the mind. We can control the mind. Orthopraxy is easy, it involves the deeds. We can control the deeds. But uh oh, orthopathy might be a little harder. Not so easy to control the heart. Yet to try and dismiss orthopathy is not wise, in my estimation. All three are necessary to the full experience of eternal life in the here and now of earth.

Crazyupstart said:
Just thought I'd add a couple more Q's:

Is there such a thing as 'feeling' God's presence? Or is it just that, a feeling? A workup of the psyche of the mind?
Is it a real presence? Is it mere emotion?
Is 'cultivat(ing) a felt sense' just that? Us working ourselves into a place of spiritual comfort with where we are theologically and mentally?

Just ask'n.

I have always liked Michael Card's song that touches a bit on the subject.
1. Is it just me, or does everyone have this experience?
Dark Night Of The Soul. Everybody experiences this, I think, though some go through darker, longer nights than others.

2. How does one cultivate a felt sense of the Lord’s presence?
Brother Lawrence, Theresa of Avila, Frank Laubach

3. Am I just whining?
Not unless Lamentations is whining.
I just got done listening to a series of lectures that has helped me tremendously with this. If you've got time, I highly recommend them:

http://www.biblicaltraining.org/class/th250

To answer your questions:
1. It's not just you.
2. Depends on what God is trying to tell you by His silence.
3. No.
I think one reason is that ppl get to caught up in just the "feeling" instead of Who is behind it. Ppl end up searching out the spiritual experiences to get that emotional high instead of seeking out the Lord God. So i think spiritual deserts are a way for God to draw us closer to him instead of ppl getting into a state of complacency.

Also during traumatic times that you feel God has abandoned you can be the Testing-of-your-Faith found in James. When all else fails are you still going to follow me? (<-want God asks, ex: Job) ... on the other hand i think ppl go thru experiences like the "Footprint in the Sand" poem/story where we think God isnt there but he is the one carrying you thru the difficult time...(even though i kno that does answer the question of why you cant feel His presence)

In the end, i think God desires us to FEEL Him and we get so caught up in ourselves we just forget to ask for the presence of God to consume us.
Looking at this through a Lutheran perspective, I receive God when the pastor preaches His Word and when I receive Holy Communion.
otherwise you are whining and trying to receive his presence as a work that you or God must do.
1. Is it just me, or does everyone have this experience?
I'd lay my bet on everyone. My question, in those times, is often whether it is me pushing Him away or him pulling away. I'm not suggesting anything to do with you here James. Every time that I can now recall, it has been me.

2. How does one cultivate a felt sense of the Lord’s presence?
I believe that it's all rooted in desire, as our actions are just the overflow of that. But, as others have suggested, it's not necessarily in our control. When I have felt closest to the Lord, it's when I'm on my knees begging for a way to make it and apologizing for not doing it sooner.

3. Am I just whining?

It doesn't sound like whining to me, it sounds like a desire for intimacy.
It looks as if God has given you a wonderful example in this woman. I would love to be like that too, James. Less and less dependent on humans (as comfort in this case) and more and more on our Father. Wouldn't it be wonderful to pick her brain and heart to hear the stories and to understand better how she came to be in this place?
We are simil justus et peccator. As such I think that sometimes we need to be reminded of the consequences of our sin, that we might revile it and repent.

Sometimes too I think he lets us feel what life really is like without him, feel what he objectively took from us and nailed to the cross. When we are alone we recognize what separation is-a downward spiral to the ultimate separation, death. But it is this yoke that he removed from our weary shoulders and put on his own.

This then is part of what it means to partake in the sufferings of Christ (and you know how much I can go on about that). Sometimes it's only in that loneliness that you enter into his suffering. It's only in that seeming separation that you realize and appreciate exactly what you have been given-fellowship with God. It's in that solitary moment when he is reshaping you into what he was and is, for in that moment he is one with you in a way that goes beyond your feelings. And whatever you feel, you know he has already defeated everything that kept you from him. You know that just when it seemed like he would be gone forever lost to the shadows of death, he returned triumphant. And he has promised he will return for his own so we look past our experience to that promise. He is more faithful than your aching loneliness. Now he is making room for faith.

Think of it this way. That loneliness you're feeling-Christ took that to the cross. That disfellowship-taken by Christ. That aloneness-Borne by Christ. In that moment when you feel utterly alone and like your prayers hit the brass ceiling, remember Gethsemane and realize he is closer to you than you could ever imagine. And having him identify with us, his making us like him-is this not one of the most blessed gifts we have received from him? Sometimes his gifts just don't come wrapped the way we think they should.

In my own case, the times of the most profound silence were the times when it was almost like he was too busy working on me to speak. And I came out of them a different person, one more like him. I can see in hindsight that just as I said, he made room for faith and he was there regardless of what I felt. There is a sense in which it seems to me that the person who's never gone through this is still shallow and isn't ready for what it really means to be united to Christ yet. But because he loves them, they will one day.
James,
I don't think you are alone. I would hazard a guess that your experience is the common one.
I once was pastor of a man who would pray for people in trouble that the Lord "would be feelingly near to them". I'm not sure of the grammar, but I understand the sentiment. He wanted them to have a sense of the Lord's presence, not simply the knowledge.
Job (19) spoke of looking all around him, yet not seeing the Lord.
Probably our dark times cause us to trust His Word so that we might learn to rely on Scripture for our guidance more than feelings. It's also in those times that our faith is tested. That which endures certainly demonstrates its validity.
Just some rambling thoughs...

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