Godtalk: God's Quiet Presence


Sun breaking through the clouds
Sunshine, by Rejik at flickr.com

One of the reasons why we struggle with faith at times is that God’s presence in us and in our world is rarely dramatic, something impossible to ignore. God doesn’t work like that. Rather God’s presence, much to our frustration and impatience at times, is something quiet and seemingly helpless inside us, rarely making waves.

Because we are not sufficiently aware of this, we tend to misunderstand the dynamics of faith and find ourselves habitually trying to ground our faith precisely something dramatic. We are forever looking for something beyond what God gives us. But we should know from the way God was born into our world, that faith needs to ground itself on something that is undramatic.

Jesus was born into our world without fanfares or power, a baby lying helpless in the straw, another child among millions.  Then, during his ministry, Jesus never used divine power in an attempt to prove beyond doubt that God exists, but only as acts of compassion or to reveal something about God.   His ministry was intended to teach us what God is like, how God loves us individually, personally, eternally.

Moreover, Jesus’ teaching about God’s presence in our lives makes clear that this presence is mostly quiet and hidden, a plant growing silently as we sleep, yeast leavening dough in a manner hidden from our eyes, summer  slowly turning a barren tree green, an insignificant plant surprising us with its growth, a man or woman forgiving an enemy. God, it seems, works in ways that are quiet and hidden from our eyes.

The God that Jesus incarnates is undramatic.  God lies deep inside us, but in a way that is largely unnoticed, and easily ignored. However, while that presence is never overpowering, it has within it a gentle imperative, a compulsion towards something higher, which invites us to draw upon it. And, if we do draw upon it, it comes in an infinite stream that instructs us, nurtures and fills us with energy.

God lies inside us as an invitation that fully respects our freedom, never overpowers us:    but also never goes away. It lies there like the baby lying helpless in the straw, gently beckoning us, but helpless in itself to make us pick it up.

Why doesn’t God show himself to us more directly and more powerfully so as to make faith easier?  Although there is no fully satisfying answer, the answer we do have lies in under-standing the manner in which God manifests himself in our lives in the world.  We feel the effect of his Spirit in charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness and so on.  Gal 5.22

God never tries to overwhelm us, he respects our freedom. For this reason, God lies everywhere, inside us and around us, largely unnoticed, and easily ignored, a quiet, gentle nudge; but, if drawn upon, the ultimate stream of love and energy.

Peter Knott SJ