My heart pounded, and my legs shook when the pastor of the little country church I was sitting in asked if anyone wanted to ask Jesus into their heart. I felt as though someone was pushing me to the front of the church.

I turned.

No one was there.

I was 16 and clueless about the whole God thing. I was not aware of how His presence, His Spirit, could urge someone quietly in his or her heart. I did know that everything in me wanted to go forward that night, but I didn’t make a move. After a few more visits I could sit still no longer. Finally, God won.

I walked forward, one slow step at a time, and wholeheartedly gave my heart to the Lord. His presence was so powerful and real; I could feel His Spirit fill me. Peace overcame me like I had never felt before. My life took on newness in the awareness of Him.

Leaving church, floating on a cloud, I was convinced this feeling would last. I was a new creation. I was forgiven.

Bit by bit, my awareness of God was chipped away by the circumstances of life. Life didn’t go the peaceful way I thought it would once I had Jesus in my heart. I got busy and felt far from Jesus.

I distanced myself from God. I stopped going to church and reading my Bible. I made bad choices and went back to living according to my power and control.

Time trickled on, and before I knew it, I was in college, and then out. God became more and more distant.

Where was He?

Why did I no longer feel He was there?

When the struggles and complexities of life happen, we tend to forget that God is with us. Always. It’s easy to become consumed with the moment we are living, rather than His presence. Circumstances in our immediate sight become our focus. Doubt and fear overwhelm us and make us give up on the things we cannot see. All these experiences rob us of the Lord’s presence that remains within us.

At the beginning of the Bible, we see how anger and sin separate us from the Holy Spirit. Genesis 4 tells the story of Cain and Abel. These two brothers each brought their own offering to the Lord. Abel brought a generous offering. Cain’s was thoughtless and careless. So Cain became angry and jealous when God showed favor to Abel.

Cain threw a tantrum and pouted. He chose to position himself away from God’s presence. Full of anger, Cain fought his brother and killed him. When God asked Cain where his brother was, Cain, lied. He lied to God even though he stood directly in His presence. God knew. He knew about the murder. God knew where Abel died. He gave Cain a chance to draw close to Him, even after Cain’s jealousy, anger, self-seeking, lying, and murderous behavior. But Cain did not humble himself before God, so God punished him. Cain could no longer till the ground productively, and he became a wandering vagabond.

Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is more than I can bear. Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me,” Genesis 4:13–14.

Cain spoke his dismay and fear of being murdered by the avengers of Abel’s murder. He was separated from God, but God’s protection continued to be with Him. God placed a mark on him to protect him from harm.

As believing Christians, we know God promises to be with us always; He will never leave us. We know He numbers every hair on our heads, and He knew us before we were created in our mother’s womb (Jeremiah 1:5).

So what happens when what we know and what we feel doesn’t connect?

When we feel distracted or separated from Him, we first need to determine whether or not Jesus is truly our Savior. Have we placed a different savior in front of Him? Identifying the idols that have blocked our awareness of God is the beginning. Defining Jesus as our Savior defines who we are in Him.

Is Jesus who we are worshiping? Jesus stands with open arms to receive us. He wants to be in a relationship with us. “In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence” (Ephesians 3:12). We can go to God knowing He is anxious to embrace us—just as we are. Run into His arms!

#makingroombook Chapter 4