The Intangible God


By: Kate Roberts

I lay on the table with wires attached to my arms and legs. Soon, the electrodes taped to my skin would have currents running through them. I was about to experience one of the many medical tests I’ve been subjected to over the past few years.

The uncertain outcomes and pain of these tests have made this season a very lonely one.

It’s times like these that I wish God would be sitting across the table from me—physically present to comfort me. When life was simple, I was almost okay with the intangible God.

First John 4:11–12 seems haunting when you’re looking for comfort.

“No one has ever seen God.” It’s an expression that exemplifies loneliness. Why the stark contrast with the surrounding text, which focuses on God’s presence and love?

John develops this thought in 1 John 4:7–12. He writes that we know we abide in God because of our love for one another. We love one another because God has given us love. He embodies love (4:7). This is shown through the death and resurrection of Christ (4:9). Because God is the root of love—bestowing love upon us first—we are able to love Him in return. Through Him, we can love one another (4:10).

This section of 1 John 4 culminates in verses 11 and 12. By loving one another, we experience God abiding in us.

In the months leading up to my medical test, I longed for God to be there. I remember talking about these feelings with a friend over coffee. As my forehead lay against the table, she listened to me and prayed over me. She also drove hours to come and sit with me through that weekend of tests. Her presence made me realize that the tangible God I desire is already present in His community.

As I lay on that table, I could have felt lonely. I will not deny that I was still scared—that the uncertainty no longer bothered me. But as I stared at the ceiling, I soaked in my friend’s presence and love. No one has ever seen God, but in that moment I felt God’s love. In that moment, I no longer felt so alone.

It is through the communal expression of God’s love that we experience and see God.

“Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” 1 John 4:11–12

Read through this passage repeatedly. Think about how this passage relates to the context of the book. Pray through it. Ask God to show you how He is present in your midst and consider how you can show His love in community.

 

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