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I am a preacher's kid, so I grew up in Church. I have been saved for twenty years and Spirit-filled for ten. Recently God has stirred a great hunger for revival in me and with that a great hunger to experience His presence like Isaiah did.
Last night as I was praying, a strong spirit of intercession came over me and I had a particularly intense prayer time, which left me with an increased hunger for revival and for God's presence. After the prayer I went to bed and I couldn't sleep. I was so restless, I tossed and turned as I prayed under my breath asking God for His presence. About 3:00 AM, something dropped in my room, and a few minutes later I thought I heard something in the living room. My room door was cracked so you could see a little light from the hallway light and it looked unusually bright. I wondered if God was really there waiting for me, but I felt scared and I did not came out. I fell asleep and woke up about 6:00 AM. The same light was shining, but it wasn't as bright as it had been at 3:00 AM.
I realized that God had been there and I was too afraid to go meet Him. I promised myself that I would not hold back it He comes again. Is this normal? What should I do? This is uncharted territory for me. I don't want to miss another opportunity to experience His real presence.- Hungry For Him
Dear Hungry For Him,
First, I do understand what you mean by the hunger for His presence, and the fear when it really shows up and then the kicking yourself afterwards for not responding to it the way you wished you had. I have experienced that myself. In fact, there was a day in November of 2001 when Jesus literally showed up in my prayer room, and I got scared and ran out of there. The Holy Spirit stopped me when I reached the other end of the house and asked me what I was doing. He suggested I go back in there and meet with Jesus. I did not think that Jesus would still be there waiting for me, and when I opened the door to the prayer room, He was not there any more. I wanted to kick myself for missing my visitation. Instead I started to pray and apologize to Him and ask Him to come back. To my surprise, He did. (If you would like more details, you can read about that on my testimonies web page at http://www.godspeak.net/2000/nmt_31.html)..
Some people say that when you are in God's manifest presence, His love is so strong that you can't possibly be afraid. There are times when that is true, but not always. I have experienced multiple divine visitations. There have been times when I have experienced that all-consuming love that casts out all fear. But there are also times when God's presence can be quite scary.
If you look in the Bible, you will see that almost every time a person had a direct encounter with God, or a divine visitation, they were terrified. Many of them fell face down as if they were dead and could not move. Why did they have that fear? It was probably because they had a tangible sense of the Lord's holiness and a realization of their own sinful nature by comparison.
We see that in Isaiah's visitation in Isaiah chapter 6. In verses 1 to 4, he describes God's glory and His holiness. Then in verse 5 we see Isaiah's reaction--he is terrified because he is acutely aware of his own sin. God dealt with his fear by purifying him or cleansing the sense of sin (in verses 6 and 7).
The Apostle John also experienced fear when Jesus appeared to him in Revelation chapter 1. John was probably Jesus' closest friend when Jesus walked the earth, and John enjoyed a deep intimacy with Jesus. Yet in Revelation 1:17-18, John was terrified when the resurrected and glorified Jesus showed up. "And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, 'Do not be afraid...'"
My theory is this--God has many attributes. One of them is holiness, one is love, one is wrath, one is peace, etc. When God chooses to meet someone with a divine visitation, He also chooses which of His attributes He wants to manifest most strongly to that person. If He chooses love or peace, then His visit probably won't be scary at all, it will be a wonderful experience. (When God visited Abraham with His two angels in Genesis 18, Abraham was not afraid of Him but was extremely happy to see Him.)
But if God chooses to manifest His holiness or His greatness or one of those type of attributes, it can be a very scary experience. The same Abraham who had a wonderful encounter with God in Gen 18 had a terrifying one with Him in Gen 15, when God first made His covenant with Abraham. God asked him to prepare a sacrifice and he did. Then he waited for God to show up, and had to drive away the vultures who wanted to eat his sacrifice. God finally showed up about sunset. Look at verse 12: "Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, horror and great darkness fell upon him." God began speaking to Abraham in verse 13, but Abraham's initial reaction to God's presence was "horror." God manifested His holiness and Abraham was terrified.
My very first vision of Jesus came when I was a teenager, long before I had made an obedience covenant with Him. I was a believer, but I tried to live the Christian life in my own strength instead of in His. I had a dream where I had a direct encounter with Jesus. I had all of these questions I wanted to ask Him about the last days and stuff in the book of Revelation. But when I saw Him, I had this strong and overwhelming sense of His holiness. At the same time I had a deep revelation of my own sin and dirtiness. I was so overwhelmed by His holiness that I feel on my face and begged Him to have mercy on Me. I was completely terrified and I became totally nonfunctional. I could not even remember the questions I wanted to ask Jesus, all I wanted was to be covered by His blood and cleaned up. Jesus began speaking to me about my destiny and calling, and about how He was going to use me for His purposes. (At the time, what He said to me sounded too incredible to be true, but now most of it has already come to pass in my life.) The point is that when Jesus appeared to me, I was keenly aware of both His holiness and of my sinful nature, and it was a terrifying experience for me--but it was a real encounter with God.
Now as for missing His presence, remember that God is a God of second chances. Do you remember the prophet Samuel? God appeared to him as a young boy and called him by name. Samuel did not know how to respond to God, so instead he ran to Eli. This happened three times and all three times Samuel got it wrong. God did not give up on Samuel. Finally Eli figured out what was going on and gave young Samuel instructions on how to respond to God. God showed up a fourth time. This time Samuel followed Eli's instructions and had a significant encounter with God.
So if you got it wrong the first time, don't panic. God will give you another chance at coming into His presence, just as He did for Samuel.