The eternal God, who transcends time and space, is rightly understood as being omnipresent. The Scriptures testify of the One who possesses all things (Genesis 14:19, 22; Deuteronomy 10:14), who upholds all things (Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:3), and who dwells in all places at all times (Psalm 139:7-10; Jeremiah 23:23-24; Acts 17:27-28). God’s expanse is infinite and He thereby fills every nook and cranny of the material world. In fact, if God was limited or confined in any way by the finite world, He would not be God. Much has been written on the theology of God’s omnipresence, but this doctrine has practical applications in biblical counseling too. Keeping the above passages in mind, let us analyze this doctrine from two perspectives: (1) as a form of comfort and (2) as a form of caution.
Omnipresence as a Form of Comfort
As social creatures, fellowship and human interaction are an integral part of life. Yet, in this fallen world, human relationships have been marred by sin, which leaves a trail of damage and loneliness in its wake. In turn, counselors frequently encounter suffering souls who are left in need of divine comfort and peace. Those who have felt abandoned, betrayed, and/or detached from those around them need to be reminded that “the Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). Moreover, “God is our refuge and our strength, a very near present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). As Paul reminded the Areopagus, God “is actually not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:27).
In fact, God’s omnipresence takes on a whole new dimension in the life of a genuine believer. While the Holy Spirit once dwelt with believers, He now dwells in them (John 14:16-17; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19; Ephesians 2:22). The New Covenant brought about the miraculous indwelling of the Spirit, whereby all believers experience a personal presence far surpassing that of human relationships. Counselees must be reminded that God’s sovereign presence and comfort not only mitigates feelings of loneliness and abandonment but actually fills them in a way that others never could. Even the care and concern shown by counselors cannot compare to the extended hand of God when it comes to restoring comfort and peace.
Aside from the emotional comfort that God’s omnipresence brings, so too does this doctrine speak to those facing physical trials. For example, the soldier in a foreign land is no farther from God than he or she is back home. Additionally, those confined to a prison cell are equally in the presence of God compared to those who are out in the world. Remember, “the Lord was with Joseph” even when he faced an unlawful imprisonment (Genesis 39:21).
Therefore, the doctrine of divine omnipresence serves as a powerful, and often neglected, comfort to counselees. Christians do not worship an inaccessible God but are blessed by His daily and personal interaction. His desire to accommodate Himself to our lowly lives is nothing short of divine love and grace. Christ did not need to step down from His throne to take on the likeness of man, but He did (Philippians 2:6-9). Christ, in His incarnation, “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). Yet, even when He departed, it was to our advantage as it paved the way for the Spirit’s indwelling ministry (John 16:4-15). What amazing love that God has shown by presenting Himself to us so personally and intentionally. Of course, the culmination of our joy and peace will find its fulfillment in the physical return of our Lord whereby His presence in heaven will be experienced personally, maximally, and everlastingly by all the saints (Revelation 21:1-4). Counselees should be reminded of these comforting truths.
Omnipresence as a Form of Caution
God’s omnipresence also provides a platform for cautioning counselees. The reality that God exists in all places, and at all times, enables counselors to point out that there is no such thing as a hidden sin. For no transgression goes unnoticed by the One who fills space and time. While sins that take place behind closed doors may be successfully hidden from the world, they are by no means sheltered from the Sovereign Creator. The Lord Himself asks the rhetorical question, “Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him?… Do I not fill heaven and earth?” (Jeremiah 23:24). The implication is clear: “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good” (Proverbs 15:3).
Therefore, as biblical counselors, we must remind our counselees that God is equally present during all their actions, both righteous and unrighteous. We know that many categories of sin tend to be exercised in isolation, such as sexual sin and even abuse in the home. Pornography addiction, for example, is commonly and quietly tucked away from the rest of the world. The same goes for those who contain their sinful outbursts to the members of their household while presenting a different character to the world. But God sees it all. Counselors should emphasize divine omnipresence to those with a false sense of comfort from concealing their sin.
It is important to remember that the same omnipresent God who engenders fear for the unrighteous can engender comfort and strength for those who wish to live godly lives. Consider the imminent terror of God’s omnipresence for the false worshippers in Amos’ day. They would soon find themselves attempting to escape His judgment but the Lord says, “If they dig into Sheol, from there shall My hand take them; if they climb up to heaven, from there I will bring them down. If they hide themselves on the top of Carmel, from there I will search them out and take them; and if they hide from my sight at the bottom of the sea, there I will command the serpent, and it shall bite them” (Amos 9:2-3). Yet, it was this same omnipresence that acted as a comfort to David who sought the way of the righteous. He stated, “Where shall I go from Your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?” (Psalm 139:7). The nearness of God can be either an immense source of reassurance and consolation or it can be an unsettling source of fear and judgment.
God’s omnipresence is a divine attribute worth incorporating into biblical counsel. Those who are tasked with “teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom” (Colossians 3:16) can use God’s omnipresence as means of offering both encouragement and warning. As counselees reflect on these implications, counselors should emphasize the profound comfort that God offers to all who prioritize righteousness. In the end, the significance of God’s omnipresence carries over into the next life. The stark reality is that God’s presence will comfort the saints in heaven as well as torment the unredeemed in hell (Revelation 21:1-8). Until that final day comes, let us use the doctrine of divine omnipresence as a counseling tool to present both comfort and caution to those who need to hear it.