Another question from a child. I told the mother how hard it is to answer kids’ questions. She said, “I know God is preparing me to be able to talk to anyone about Jesus if I can answer their questions!”
Question: How can we feel love towards God when we don’t see Him physically?
Kids, adults struggle with these questions too. I’ve heard it most heartbreakingly from the midst of profound depression and agonizing grief: “If only I could feel his arms around me … but right now I feel nothing.”
This is actually one of the reasons that Jesus came to earth. We use the fancy word incarnate. It means he came in flesh (carne). This was God in a human form that we could see and touch. Listen to the progression of thought that John walks us through in his Gospel.
- First, he says, No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known (1:18). In other words, God the Father knows how hard it can be not to see Him, so he sent Jesus to make Him known.
- Thus, if you want to know precisely what God the Father is like – what He thinks, feels, cares about, and would act like if He was on earth – look at Jesus and what he does. John quotes Jesus, saying, Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise (5:19).
- Nevertheless, even if we have a picture of Jesus in our mind for what God the Father might look like, it’s still hard, isn’t it? Take comfort. It was hard for the disciples too. Just an hour before Jesus was arrested and led away to what would be His crucifixion, one of His disciples, Philip, said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. (14:8-9).
So if we want to feel the love of God – which is an important step in feeling love towards God – then it’s helpful to “see” Jesus in our mind’s eye. It’s helpful to imagine what Jesus would say and do when we’re hurting … because that’s what God the Father would do. Would he listen to us? Would he hug us when we hurt? Would he wipe the tears from our eyes? Would he even cry with us when we cry? Would he comfort … and forgive … and care more deeply than anyone else on earth? If we want to feel the love of God – which is an important step in feeling love towards God – then we should focus first on Jesus.
Second, if we want to feel the love of God – which is an important step in feeling love towards God – then we go where God is moving. Hopefully the first best place is your church (our church!) … and especially at worship. We go to where God is moving and join him there! Some people meet God best through music. Some people meet God best in prayer. Others meet God best when they hear his testimony through the Scriptures – including when they hear Scripture proclaimed. Still others hear God best when they put out their hands for Communion. (Which is part of why we do all of those things at church on Sundays.) Other people “touch” a God who is not physical by gathering with physical people who can give them a hug and wipe away their tears. I know, it’s not the same as literally physical God, but the Lord of the Universe does care enough to give us real, personal ways to truly experience his presence.
So how do we feel God’s presence even when we can’t experience him physically? The worst thing to do is to retreat from His presence in defeat. The best thing to do is to go to where God is moving … even if we can’t see it yet. And we keep trying to practice the presence of the Lord. And when we keep joining him there, His love toward us will shine through … eventually. And our love toward Him will grow in response.
In Christ’s Love,
a guy who “feels” God
whenever he gathers
with our church family