Fruits and Pains of Living in the Presence of God

What are the Fruits of Living in the Presence of God?

The fruits of Living in the Presence of God can be, as stated by Paul in Galatians 5:22: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. When reflecting upon these, I become aware of how far short my own life in God’s presence is—and how much more I am invited to become.

For me personally, I would lift up four fruits: gratitude, trust, peace, and joy. These four are my responses to living in the presence of God and become for me the fruits of living my life in the presence of God.

I give gratitude to God for God’s blessings: life itself, the eyes to see God’s presence in my life, and the gift of God’s presence in times of loss, sorrow and trouble. When I look at my life through the eyes of faith in God—and with a heart of gratitude—everything that is good comes from or through God. What a gift to be able to experience a sunrise, a loved one, a friend—potentially any situation—with gratitude to God!! Through the eyes of faith each new day – each new minute—becomes an opportunity to thank God—and to respond to each situation with the spirit of God’s love! Regardless of my life’s circumstances, my heart can give unending thanks to God!

Trust in God is a fruit of living in the presence of God. Trust becomes strengthened and increased by a lifestyle that flows from acknowledging that I live in the Presence of God. My mind races with worries about what has happened and fears of what will happen in my life. Try as I will to overcome these worries and fears—and to know that for the most part they are fruitless and divert my time and attention from the things of God—I cannot succeed. So, acknowledging my need to worry and to fear for the future, I am invited to turn to Jesus and to give to Him my cares and my burdens. (Matthew 11:28-30). Jesus’ words—and the words of the Psalmist “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10) – become for me words of prayer that take me from my world of worries and fears and return me to the presence of God. And there I can turn my worries and fears over to God. What I quickly realize there is that I am not in control of what will happen. I come to recognize in a given situation that at best I can influence a situation but cannot control its outcome. I can control only my response. So, the fruits that come in this situation from living in the presence of God are listening for how I am called to respond and trusting that God will be present in that response. Because of God’s love for me and for God’s whole creation, I listen to hear how I should respond—and pray for the strength and the wisdom to choose to so act. I do my very best to give over to God the results.  I do not pretend that the results will be as I wish—for so many times they are not. Rather, I trust that regardless of the results, our loving God will be there. For me, I will not attribute to God that the results that actually occur are the “will” of God. For the Kingdom of God has not yet fully come on this earth—and by the design of God, the “will” of God for good can be thwarted by evil and by wrong choices by me and by others. Whether God KNOWS the actual result in advance only God knows for I do not know the mind of God. So, for me, I am able to trust that regardless of the actual result, God will be with me in that moment and that brings me peace!

Peace is the fruit of trust in God:  “God’s peace” that is, “the peace of God which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). (See also John 14: 27) It is hard to describe—but you know when you have it.  It is knowing that you will be safe even when you know that you will ultimately perish from this earth. It is a peace that says that even if the trials of Job should fall upon you that God will be with you and you will remain in the hands of our loving God even as your world or parts of it fall apart. It is a peace that points us beyond ourselves toward God—and invites us to “Be still, and know that I am God!”  (Psalm 46:10.) And because it points us toward God, it is a peace filled with HOPE!

The final fruit I would share is that of JOY! Certainly it is no surprise that joy is the fruit of gratitude to God. When we experience life with gratitude and thanksgiving for the countless blessings received each day, it is easy to understand the fruit of joy. But surprising to some, joy is also a fruit of trust in God and, over time, joy itself comes with the peace of Christ that passes all understanding! When we know that God is present even in our times of sorrow and loss, joy too can be the fruit of God’s presence! Henri Nouwen observes that joy is a choice we make (Here and Now, Living in the Spirit)—and, in fact, it is to a large degree. We can choose to respond to a situation with despair, “why me,” and “what did I do to deserve this.” Or, we can choose to trust God, receive the peace of Christ, and live the hope that comes from our looking toward God—rather than looking toward ourselves!  

The fruits of living in the presence of God are many and these are only some. They are not ends to be pursued for their own sake—and cannot likely be achieved if they are intentionally sought. Rather, they are fruits that become gifts from our loving God to us—when we choose to live our lives in the presence of God.

             What Is the Pain of Living in the Presence of God?

Lest there by any suggestion by me that this discipline is all positive and is without its own pain, let me dispel such thoughts now.

Most who practice living in the presence of God and are mindful of God’s love lead full lives with countless commitments and responsibilities. Our lives are the opposite of the monastic or cloistered life, which is usually what one envisions when one thinks about living in the presence of God.  Our lives are firmly rooted in this world and the concerns of this world and necessarily must be because we are not able or willing to “sell what (we) own and give the money to the poor.” (Mark 10:21) To some degree, “living in the presence of God” is guaranteed to fail when we return to work, family life, or simply live in this world!

There are a few consequences that one experiences. Quickly, we become aware of how easy it is to be pulled back into the world—to respond to the events of the world in very “worldly” ways. That is, we gradually recognize how far we live from the way that God wants us to—and how we fail to accept the full blessing that God wants us to have. This is painful. As we increasingly become aware of God’s love for us—and the ways that we can experience that love—we also know that we fail to reflect God’s love back into the world as we are called upon to do. We are then called upon instead to confess our failures and admit that we are imperfect prisms in how we reflect God’s love back into the world. God, of course, knows this already—and we ourselves quickly become aware of this truth. The choice then is to do one of two things: either abandon the discipline altogether or confess to God our failures and return to God’s presence.

Each moment becomes an opportunity to return—to do better—to commit to a closer walk with God and to better reflect the love of God to our hurting world. And when we do return to God’s presence, we are even better able to understand that God’s love for us is not conditioned upon what we do—but is based on who we are: the beloved children of God!