Have you ever asked, “God, where are you? Where did You go?”
God never left. He is everywhere. Searching for Him is like sitting in a rowboat in a lake looking for water. He’s there; we just can’t see Him or feel Him.
God is usually invisible to our ordinary five senses. Though we may infer His existence from what He created, this indirect knowledge doesn’t help us much when we are lonely. A child alone in her room at night may look at the furniture around her and infer that her parents furnished the room, but it won’t stop her crying when she is afraid of the dark. She needs a direct connection with her mother’s arms.
We may become convinced of God’s existence by viewing creation. We may even believe that God sent Christ to die for us two millennia ago. But if we need to speak to Him directly, we won’t be comforted by ancient divine visitations. Without a current awareness of God’s presence, we only see His shadow, not His face.
God is with us, though. He is with us now, and He is knowable. He just isn’t knowable to our ordinary senses. God has other means of making Himself known.
The five conventional senses—taste, touch, smell, sight, and hearing—are not the only ones we have. We also possess “subjective” senses that are no less real. Our regular senses show us the physical world, including matter, energy, vibrations, etc. They give us data, but cannot help us interpret what to do with the information. Without judgment, information is worthless.
Our eyes can see the scenery, but our heart recognizes beauty. Our ears can hear sounds, but our hearts know it as music. Our noses can smell roses and skunks, but our hearts know one as perfume and the other as a stench. Our lips feel the press of lips, but our hearts experience a kiss. Every sensory experience needs to be interpreted by the senses of the heart.
We experience God through the senses of the heart. A miracle must be recognized, or it’s just another event. A blessing must be appreciated to be known. Without the senses of the heart, there’s no way of knowing that God exists.
God has given us many subjective senses to recognize His presence and His glory. Here’s a few of them:
A sense of certainty. Have you ever experienced a sudden “ring of truth” when something feels right? There’s an “aha” moment when we suddenly grasp a new idea. We should always examine the evidence when making a decision, but studies have shown that our subjective feelings are a necessary part of making any decision. Feelings are necessary in choosing faith over doubt. When faced with facts that may be interpreted in different ways, our innate sense of certainty leads us to what is correct.
A sense of justice. This sense lets us know when something is fundamentally wrong with the world. Skeptics and cynics sometimes use this sense of justice to argue against the existence of God. If God is real, they say, why doesn’t He stop injustice from happening? But this line of argument paints them into a corner. If we admit that a sense of justice exists and can lead us to recognize the truth, we must also admit that truth may come directly from our heart. Truth does not just come from outer evidence, but also insight. This is dangerous stuff for a skeptic to admit, since it concedes that there are things in the universe besides what we see, hear, smell, taste, or touch. This opens the door for belief in God who speaks to us through the inner insight of the heart.
A sense of wonder. As I write these words, I am sitting on the balcony of a cruise ship in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. As I view the ever-extending horizon, the limitless expanses of water and sky, I feel like a tiny dot on a vast globe, insignificant in a world huge beyond comprehension. The turning of the earth, the surging of the tides, the wind of the air and ocean currents go on all around me, and I have no control over any of it, nor do I understand it. I am experiencing a sense of wonder and am moved to praise God.
Isaiah the prophet wrote, “I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted; and the train of his robe filled the temple.” He was suddenly overwhelmed with a vision of heaven, with the throne of God and his angels. In his heart, he heard the angels cry, “The whole earth is full of His glory!” Isaiah’s heart answered back, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell amid a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” Isaiah experienced God and was overcome with terror and wonder. Wonder is the sense of becoming overwhelmed with things beyond our knowledge. It is the root experience of worship. God is greater than myself, and all I can do is to stare in wonder.
A sense of love. The objectivist may make a persuasive argument that love doesn’t exist. If life is only a complex arrangement of chemical compounds brought together by random motion which somehow developed its own purpose to procreate and seek to continue its own existence, then emotions are unimportant. We exist, that’s all. Feelings like love are figments of our imagination.
But we all know that the heart matters. Love does exist. We seek it above all things. We’ll even die for it.
Is it so strange to believe that God would use love to reveal His existence? The Bible says that God is love. Sometimes we get a sense that God is there and that He is smiling upon us. When we do, God is revealing to us that He will give love to anyone who wants it. God uses many ways to communicate His love to us. But if we pay attention, we will eventually hear Him say it. God uses many ways to communicate uniquely that He loves us.
A sense of peace. Have you ever experienced a sudden peace in circumstances where no peace should exist? It is a calm amid a storm or sudden joy in sadness. When this happens, believe that God has sent it. St. Ignatius called it the “blessing without precedent.” We shouldn’t be at peace, but it is there, anyway. When that peace suddenly appears, we usually find God at the other end.
A sense of humor. Why do we laugh at our mistakes instead of weeping in despair? Because God gave us the ability to sense the ridiculous side of life. He gave it so we can realize, no matter how absurd life gets, that some good is there, too. Life is a comedy, not a tragedy; laughter is there to teach us this.
A sense of humor is a useful tool for finding our ridiculousness. There’s a reason for so many preacher jokes: because we deserve them. We are often proud, stupid, and sometimes just plain dumb. When we fall into bombast or hypocrisy, our sense of humor (or someone else’s) reminds us of how ridiculous we are.
All these senses of the heart—certainty, wonder, love, peace, humor—are given to us for only one reason: so that we never have to ask the question, “Where is God?” The senses of the heart are here to reveal to us His glory. The more we use these senses, the more we become aware of God. If we continue to use them, we will see Him everywhere.