By Elizabeth Prata
The Christian women’s bookstore aisles or the online search result pages of women’s devotionals, books, and Bible curricula are rife with promises of feeling the presence of God. These materials entice you with its author’s descriptions of ecstasies and sensations of the actual presence of God they claim to have had.
This morning’s devotional from Frances Ridley Havergal in the book “Seasons of the Heart: A Year of Devotions from One Generation of Women to Another” rebutted that activity with a short and to-the-point essay. I’ve found none better. Here it is-
The Perpetual Presence
By Frances Ridley Havergal
Lo, I am with you alway. —MATTHEW 28:20
Some of us think and say a good deal about a sense of Christ’s presence— sometimes rejoicing in it, sometimes going mourning all the day long because we have it not; praying for it and not always seeming to receive what we ask; measuring our own position, and sometimes even that of others, by it; now on the heights, now in the depths about it. And all this April-like gleam and gloom instead of steady summer glow is because we are turning our attention upon the sense of His presence instead of the changeless reality of it!
It comes practically to this: Are you a disciple of the Lord Jesus at all? If so, He says to you, “I am with you alway.” That overflows all the regrets of the past and all the possibilities of the future and most certainly includes the present. Therefore, at this very moment, as surely as your eyes rest on this page, so surely is the Lord Jesus with you. “I am” is neither “I was” nor “I will be.” It is always abreast of our lives, always encompassing us with salvation. It is a splendid, perpetual now.
Is it not too bad to turn round upon that gracious presence, the Lord Jesus Christ’s own personal presence here and now, and, without one note of faith or whisper of thanksgiving, say, “Yes, but I don’t realize it!” Then it is, after all, not the presence but the realization that you are seeking—the shadow, not the substance! Honestly, it is so! For you have such an absolute assurance of the reality put into the very plainest words of promise that divine love could devise, that you dare not make Him a liar and say, “No! He is not with me!” All you can say is, “I don’t feel a sense of His presence.” Well then, be ashamed of doubting your beloved Master’s faithfulness, and never open your mouth anymore in His presence about it. What shall we say to our Lord? He says, “I am with you alway.” Shall we not put away all our imperfect and double-fettered experience and say to Him, lovingly and grate fully, “Thou art with me!”
~FRANCES RIDLEY HAVERGAL (1836-1879).
Frances was a hymn writer, a poet, and a devoted woman of God. The Banner of Truth has an essay describing her life, here. The Seasons of the Heart short bio described her death: “Frances died in Wales at the age of 42 from peritonitis. After suffering illness and intense pain, she folded her hands and exclaimed, “There now it is all over. Blessed rest!” After gazing up for ten minutes, she tried to sing. After one high note “He…” her voice failed and she was taken home to be with her Savior.”
I find it helpful to read of the previous generations of women writers, missionaries, wives…their steady and doctrinally solid devotion to the word of God and our Savior is inspiring. Too many women authors and speakers of today offer only vain words and empty promises of feeling the presence or hearing directly from Him. I found today’s devotional a refreshing dip into waters that cleanse, sweep away the cords of confusion, and refresh the soul. I hope you enjoyed it too.
Below is an essay I wrote in 2015 rebutting feeling the presence of God and going on about supposed visions, but Frances did it better 🙂