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I certainly don’t think this would come naturally in a mud pit, or in a slave trade, or in a prison cell. Yet, we’re told consistently in Genesis that God was “with” Joseph (Gen. 38:2; 39:21, 23) in his darkest hours. It doesn’t say, however, that Joseph felt God’s presence. It just says that God was “with him.” What are some implications of this?
- Your feelings are not an accurate measure of God’s presence. This is tough to swallow in today’s world. But just because you feel alone and isolated doesn’t mean you are alone and isolated. Your feelings are a gift from God and can reveal many things, but they certainly aren’t fail-proof. In fact, as Joseph’s life suggests, God may be closest to us when we feel most distant from him.
- God’s presence is not situational. As the psalmist points out in Psalm 139:7-12, there is nowhere that God is not. It’s never the case that God is somewhere to the exclusion of another somewhere.
- It’s harmful to live as if God were absent, and it’s maturing to trust that he’s always present. Joseph had plenty of reasons to get sucked into the black hole of despair. He was thrown into a pit for being loved by his father and cast into a prison cell for being loved by his master. He had every opportunity to wallow in self-pity. But none of that (if it happened) is in the story of Scripture. What we find there is a picture of Joseph’s continual maturity in faith. In fact, he becomes so spiritually mature that he can stare into the pupils of his back-stabbing kin and say, “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Gen. 50:20).
So, do you have to feel God’s presence in your life? No. At least, that’s a clear takeaway from the story of Joseph. Feeling God’s presence is wonderful, and God does bless people with that gift on occasions. But far more important is the answer to the bare question, Is God always present with you? And the answer to that question, thank God, is a resounding and eternal YES. It’s a yes that even rolled off the tongue of Jesus Christ himself (Matt. 28:20).
God is with you. Today. Right now. At this very moment. It doesn’t matter if you feel him. He is God beyond our feelings, beyond our wildest imagination.
Want to learn more about growing closer to God and trusting in his presence with you? Check out my little ebook, In Divine Company: Growing Closer to the God Who Speaks.