Encountering His Presence | Northlands Church
February 2015

Encountering His Presence

I was sitting in church during worship one Sunday morning. The worship was sweet and I could feel the presence of the Lord around me. I stopped singing along with the team and the rest of the people and began to just rest in His presence. As I rested, I let go of trying to steer my worship experience. I was no longer concerned about the notes leaving my lips or giving the appropriate amount of praise to my God who is so worthy of all I have to give. No, I just sat and basked in the presence of the One who wants to be close to me, who wants to be with me, and who made it all possible. On that morning, this was my ultimate worship…simply acknowledging the great gift He had given me in the accessibility of His presence.Then it happened. I felt a twinge of panic when I began to feel in my physical body the way I had felt on that night sixteen years ago that I will never forget. It was the night I lost control of everything when I had a bad trip on LSD. But the panic only lasted a moment until a surge of revelation came over me. The place I was in this very morning, encountering the physical manifestation of the presence of God, was indeed the same place I was in that night. The difference between these two occurrences was the surrender of my heart to Jesus.The first time I encountered His manifest presence, I was only encountering His wrath that I had no control over. I hadn’t surrendered my heart to Him. I hadn’t chosen to trust Him as my Lord and Savior. I had not accepted His death as my own to pay for and save me from my sin.And I was terrified.For months I had been asking, begging God to give me a way out of the life I was living. I knew it wasn’t what my life was supposed to be, but I was too afraid to change for fear of what it would require of me and what the people around me would think. He opened my eyes that night to the choice that I had to make: keep on going the way I knew wasn’t right and surrender to His wrath or make the bold step to change my life and risk everything I knew to accept the gift He was offering.My then boyfriend had grown up in church and his father was a pastor. So, amidst my audible prayers for God to help me through this, he did the only thing He could think to help me even though He wasn’t even close to living for God himself at the time. He led me in a sinner’s prayer. At the final word of the prayer, the effects of the drugs lessened greatly - the departure of God’s wrath. When I said yes to Jesus and His sacrifice for me on the cross, the wrath of God against me was fully satisfied. I was still in His presence and still unsettled at what had just happened, but His presence was no longer reason for intense fear.Though it has taken me sixteen years to come to this understanding, I now see that God really does use all things to work together for good. He used the very tool of my sin to draw me to Himself. In the years since, I have shied away from letting go of control in His presence as it felt too much like that one night. I wasn’t fully aware that it was His presence all along, I just thought I would have to struggle with flashbacks my whole life. On that Sunday morning I realized the truth, and I let go and enjoyed His presence more fully than I have ever been able to before, and it was sweet. I wasn’t in control, but I knew he was and that is enough.A God of wrath, yes. The Bible is full of stories of His wrath and anger at our sin. But even more so, He is a God of love and grace, and He will go to any length to draw us out of wrath and into His amazing grace and love. Love wins.