I want to believe in God but my own personal experience tells me he doesn’t exist. Why don’t I feel God’s presence in my life?
Note: This was a follow-on question to this article.
At the outset, we would like to note that experiencing God is very personal and we are in no position to pass judgment on what you may feel.
As we have asserted previously, personal experience is one of the ways we see God’s presence in our lives. There is no way to measure the number of people whose lives have been changed after an encounter with God. The greatest change is a new nature and the forgiveness of sins that they receive. Some who have been suffering from alcohol and drugs addictions are set free and start helping others in a similar predicament. Convicts get out of jail and become evangelists, husbands learn to love their wives and wives turn back to their husbands. Youngsters stop cursing and roaming around with gangs, workers stop cheating in their jobs, people get healed..… the list goes on and on. All this is the result of a new life in Jesus and a process of being transformed into His likeness. This is the experience that we are talking about in our article, and we cannot deny it because it has happened to our families, dearest friends, communities, to ourselves; it is happening all over the world in true Bible believing churches and communities. Only God can change lives like this, because He is the true life giver.
Nevertheless, you may be disappointed with your own Christian experience. From our experiences, we know that going to church from childhood, getting baptised and being involved in various ministries does not make one a Christian. So many children of Christian parents today grow up in the church without really getting saved, without encountering Jesus as God. They believe they were born again because they once said the so-called “sinners prayer”. However once they grow up, they turn away from church and God, because they never belonged to Him (1 John 2:19). God was only an activity to them, just another family activity. And for some, only after many years does the true meaning of the gospel message really touch their heart.
Being born again is not believing in God or loving Jesus. The Bible says that even the devil and demons believe in God (James 2:19), and yet they perish. So many Christian churches today twist the gospel message because they want to keep their member count high and not offend people by talking about sin. But the reason that Jesus came to earth is to save us from our sins. The Bible is very clear that we all have sinned and are guilty before God (Romans 3:23). And the result of sin is spiritual death (Romans 6:23), separation from God, as His holy nature cannot accept sin. Therefore seeing man’s state – that man cannot save himself from sin, God allowed His own righteous Son to die in our place, so that He would pay the price for what you and I have done. If I was the only person on earth with just one sin, He would still have come to sacrifice Himself for me, because He loves me so much. Knowing how much He had to suffer for us, being God and allowing himself to be trampled upon and slaughtered by men, is what makes us realise the price that He paid for our sins to be forgiven and us to have this new life. He died for our sins and rose again, and He is now the only One who has the right to forgive sins and give new life to those who repent. Therefore everyone who acknowledges from his heart that he is a sinner and deserves to go to hell for what he did and believes in what Jesus did on the cross for him and repents before Him, is born again. This repentance is not just being sorry for what you did. Repentance is understanding and agreeing with God that you sinned against Him and having an earnest desire to change your behavior. The problem we see today is that the churches in Christian countries are full of people who have never really realised their need to be saved and therefore have never been biblically born again.
We really hope this does not apply to you, but if you have any doubts about your salvation, please do not hesitate or wait. Examine yourself and see whether you are really born again. This is the reason the Bible exhorts us to test whether we are truly in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). It may be the case that you have never experienced the joy of salvation. If so, act now and get saved.
The other possible cause for your doubts about your experience with God may be false expectations. It might depend on your background, such as the church that you go to. There are many churches today that are focused on feelings, emotional highs and experiences. And if someone does not feel the same way they take it as a sign that the person does not belong to God or is not born again. Therefore believers are often under the impression that they have to seek deeper and deeper experiences and manifestations in their lives – new extra-biblical revelations, visions, supernatural occurrences, signs such as speaking in tongues etc. While it is true that every believer has God’s Holy Spirit dwelling in him, this does not mean that we start to have supernatural experiences. The point we are trying to make here is that maybe your expectations towards how you should feel when you approach God could be based on wrong influences of the Christian background / social circles that you may be part of. The Bible clearly says that the fruits of the Holy Spirit are love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Gal 5:22-23). These qualities will be present in your life and is one of the signs that the Holy Spirit lives in you and that you are born again. That’s why many people after salvation testify that all of a sudden they have love for others, that they can forgive what they could not forgive earlier, they have more peace than before even when going through difficulties in their lives. If these things are not present in your life, then maybe you have to think again whether you really ever repented and trusted God as your Saviour, whether you really wanted to start a new life with Him.
And lastly, maybe at one point in your life you started your walk with God, but then went away. Maybe there was a sin in your life that you did not want to give up and continued in it. Therefore in the long term you may have started feeling that God has moved away from your life, or that your prayers are not being answered. We can tell you from personal experience that many times when we felt like this in our lives it was because of our sins or something we were unwilling to forgive and confess to God. If there is something that stands between you and Him – whatever it is, please deal with it. Now is the time to do it. You do not know whether you will have until tomorrow to do it – such is the frailty of human life.
We can go on and on with the things that might hinder our relationship with God. But you are the best person to tell yourself what it is that does not allow you to fully trust Him. If you have more questions please, do not hesitate to ask us.