As a pastor, you likely spend most of your day talking about God, reading about God, and thinking about God.
But if I asked you, “Where is God?” how would you respond?
I know you understand the theologically right answer. But have you internalized how Psalm 139 answers that question?
“Where could I go to escape from your Spirit or from your sight? If I were to climb up to the highest heavens, you would be there. If I were to dig down to the world of the dead you would also be there. Suppose I had wings like the dawning day and flew across the ocean. Even then your powerful arm would guide and protect me” (Psalm 139:7-10 CEV).
It’s mind boggling for me to think that God never has to go anywhere because he’s already there.
But God’s omnipresence isn’t just a theological construct; it has a powerful application to how you, as a pastor, deal with the most difficult experiences of life.
When you recognize that God is with you wherever you go, his presence will help sustain you when you struggle in these four areas.
1. When you’re lonely, God is your companion.
As pastors, we face different kinds of loneliness. There’s the kind of loneliness that comes when we’re afraid to open up about our own pain and insecurities. There’s the loneliness we feel when our marriage is stretched to the limit by the demands of ministry. There’s also the loneliness that comes when we’ve moved far away from our extended family to answer God’s call.
We all face loneliness in ministry. But we need to recognize this truth: God doesn’t like to see us lonely. The first time God said “it isn’t good” was when he looked at Adam in Genesis 1 and recognized he was alone.
But God’s Word is filled with good news about our loneliness. If we recognize God’s presence in our lives, he will bring joy in the midst of these struggles.
The Bible says this in Psalm 16:11, “Your presence fills me with joy and brings me pleasure forever” (GNT).
You might feel alone right now, but you’re not. God’s promise, “I will never leave you or let you be alone” (Hebrews 13:5 NLV), will bring you joy.
2. When you’re worried, God is your confidence.
We all go through “the fire” in ministry—those tough times when we’re overwhelmed by stress. And God knows how easy it is for us to worry when we’re in the middle of a fire. That’s why he gives us his presence.
The fact that God is with us changes everything. His presence gives us the stability we need to say, as David does in Psalm 23:4, “Even when walking through the dark valley of death I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me, guarding, guiding all the way” (TLB).
You can’t get that kind of confidence from psychology. It only comes when you know that God is walking with you—and because of that, nothing can shake you.
3. When you’re tempted, God is your counselor.
First Corinthians 10:13 reminds us that temptations are common for everyone. Pastors aren’t immune to them. Just like anyone else, we face normal temptations (lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh, and the pride of life).
But the verse also reminds us that God provides us with counsel when we face temptation. Paul writes, “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure” (1 Corinthians 10:13 NLT).
God is a counselor who shows you a way out of the temptation. Your temptation doesn’t surprise him. He knows what you’re going through, and he’s pulling for you to succeed. You don’t have to just depend upon your own willpower, which invariably will falter. God has an escape route plotted out for you. He will always be with you to guide you along the right path.
4. When you’re discouraged, God is your comforter.
I know many pastors who feel discouraged right now. These last couple of years have been tough on ministers. A few months back, The Barna Group survey suggested nearly 4 out of 10 pastors had thought about quitting in the last year.
If that’s how you feel right now, the Bible has something to say to you: “The Lord saved me from death; he stopped my tears and kept me from defeat. And so I walk in the presence of the Lord in the world of the living” (Psalm 116:8-9 GNT).
God’s presence will give you the power to keep going. But you have to tune into it, and “walk in the presence of the Lord.”
How can you tune into God’s presence?
- Be quiet. Many people don’t experience God’s presence because they’re always distracted. Drop out of the noise around you by tuning in to God’s presence several times a day. .
- Talk to God about everything. Maintain a consistent conversation with God. Nothing should be off limits.
- Develop the habit of praise. Thank God for who he is and for what he has done for you.
Pastor, if you practice these simple habits, God will open a whole new world to you.
Recognizing the presence of God in your life changes everything. No matter what you’re going through, he is right there with you, providing companionship, confidence, counsel, and comfort.