We tend to think of God as off in some distant Heaven: that we need to traverse a great abyss in order to reach Him – overcome great barriers and obstacles that lie in our way. But it is all a matter of our state of consciousness: If we understand the true nature of reality, then we will know that God is right here beside us at all times, His presence radiating out from everyone and everything that exists.
God is near in all the pulsating activity of life. Activity is the expression of the divine life force as it manifests itself in the vitality of existence: the movement of an atom, the migration of peoples, the turning of planets, and the whirling of galaxies. It is God transforming His thoughts and visions into a structured concrete form. Activity is the Mind of God being manifest.
God is near to us in the cacophony of sounds that make up the music of life: the cry of a baby – the moan of an old man, the song of a cicada, the chatter of a river, the whisper of the wind. All these sounds are God talking to us from across the chasm of the Absolute: They are a hand reaching out across the abyss of solitude, searching for an “other” to commune with and touch. God created the universe so that He could know Himself. Sound is the Heart of God being manifest: The Infinite speaking to the finite.
God is near to us in the silence and solitude – in the vibrating livingness of the Self. Deep in side us there is a ’voice’ that is always speaking, but we are too busy “doing and acting” to hear it. It is the ‘voice of God’, and in solitude and silence it is revealed.
Saint John of the Cross taught that, if we want to receive the knowledge of God, then we “should be very annihilated in… (our) natural operations, unhampered…quiet, peaceful, and serene… in supreme peace and tranquility while the soul listens, like David, to what the Lord God speaks to it.”
Silence is the Will of God being manifest: The Eternal speaking to the eternal.
God is near to us in the joy and beauty of life. One can feel His presence watching a lovely sunset, looking at an expansive mountain view or observing the delicate and exquisite beauty of a wildflower. The whole of creation is filled with the awe of God. In the Talmud, we are told that one rabbi spent his whole day walking along the beach and looking at the ocean, while reciting the blessing: “Blessed are You, O Lord our God, who has fashioned the works of creation.”
God is near to us in our suffering and struggles. As Ramana Maharshi used to say: without suffering, who would ever think of God? If life were all bliss, we would never ever question anything. If life ran smoothly, no one would ever make an effort to change or grow. We would never see our imperfections or strive for excellence. Unfortunately, it is only through the difficulties of life that we are forced to look inward. Someone who is content quickly forgets God.
God is near to us in the suffering of others. Each person is a living spark of divinity and when we see that divinity in others then God is truly near. Swami Vivekananda used to tell his brother disciples that meditation and prayer is useless if we do not use the energy that God has given us to help those who are in need. He called the suffering masses of India “the living Gods” or in the words of the Psalms: “you are Gods, and all sons of the Most High.” (82:6)
God is near to us in the goodness of man. In the care, affection and loving-kindness that one human being shows to another. When we act with compassion and mercy, we are bringing God down into the reality of this physical world. Compassion and mercy are the attributes of God being manifest.
God is not in a distant heaven, nor is He locked in some inaccessible fortress guarded by the heavenly hosts. He is near to us at all times: in joy and sorrow, in victory and defeat, in success and failure, in gain and loss, in life and in death. God is near to us at every moment. And what a gift it is that we have the conscious awareness to know that this is so.
Copyright © 2006, by Yoel Glick
- Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, translated by Kieran Kavanaugh O.C.D. and Otilio Rodriguez O.C.D.↵