He sees you when you’re sleeping
He knows when you’re awake
He knows if you’ve been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake!
You better watch out!
You better not cry
You better not pout
I’m telling you why
Santa Clause is coming to town.
WHAT THE HECK ARE WE TEACHING OUR KIDS?! Some creepy old man in a plus-sized red furry suit with a Coco Cola in hand is watching them every night all year long, tracking their choices and morality?! What is wrong with us, America? And how on Earth does this one man watch all of these kids? Is he tapping our phones? Is he stuffing our toys at Christmas with hidden cameras so he can track us during the year?! What kind of creep is this?!
It’s interesting, though, that there is some truth to this song. Well, no, Santa Clause doesn’t exist and he’s not watching you. (Sorry to burst your bubble if your parents spent a quarter of your life lying to you.) However, God is watching us because He is literally everywhere. As freaky as that might sound, and regardless of how unreasonable it may sound to you, it is the truth. That’s because God is what we call omnipresent.
According to Webster’s dictionary, omnipresence is, “The fact of being present or in existence everywhere at once.” The early theologian Saint Augustine describes God’s omnipresence as: “[God] is wholly present everywhere, is confined by no frontiers and bound by no hindrances, is indivisible and immutable, and, though His nature has no need of either heaven or of earth, He fills them both with His presence and His power.”
Thus, God’s omnipresence means He is present everywhere. The prefix omni means all, and the root “presence relates to His position. Thus, omnipresence literally means “all-present“. No one can hide from Him and nothing escapes His notice. Proverbs 15:3 says, “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, watching the evil and the good.” The most noted passage on God’s omnipresence would have to be Psalm 139 (emphasis added):
O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
You understand my thought from afar.
You scrutinize my path and my lying down,
And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.
Even before there is a word on my tongue,
Behold, O Lord, You know it all.
You have enclosed me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is too high, I cannot attain to it.
Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will lay hold of me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,
And the light around me will be night,”
Even the darkness is not dark to You,
And the night is as bright as the day.
Darkness and light are alike to You.
For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.
How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand.
When I awake, I am still with You.
O that You would slay the wicked, O God;
Depart from me, therefore, men of bloodshed.
For they speak against You wickedly,
And Your enemies take Your name in vain.
Do I not hate those who hate You, O Lord?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against You?
I hate them with the utmost hatred;
They have become my enemies.
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way.
However, it’s important to note that although God is in everything, he is not OF everything. He is not restricted by His own creation. Let me explain: God is in the universe, but He’s not of the universe. He works in time, but He is not constrained by time. He is outside of the normal laws of our universe. One way to think of this is C.S. Lewis‘ analogy from Mere Christianity: “But suppose God is outside and above the Time-line. In that case, what we call ‘tomorrow’ is visible to Him in just the same way as what we call ‘today’. All the days are ‘Now’ for Him.” Thus, that means because God is outside of linear time, He is in the past, the present, and the future.
Theophilus of Antioch said, “[God] is by no means confined in a place, for if he were, then the place containing Him would be greater than He…For God is not contained, but is Himself the place of all.”
Now, you might be thinking, “Yeah….so?!” God’s omnipresence actually affects our day-to-day lives in a way you may not realize. Since God is everywhere, He knows exactly what is happening at all times everywhere. He knows your deepest lows and highest highs. The Lord knows when you are struggling and need His guiding and providing hand. I used to think as a teenager that God was too preoccupied with all the troubles in the Middle East – who cares if the boy I like in school doesn’t like me back?! God has bigger fish to fry. Instead, God’s omnipresence ensures that He is always with us and cares about us, even if our sorrows or hardships seem meaningless or shallow to the rest of the world.
Corrie Ten Boom was a Dutch Christian who helped many Jews escape the Nazis during World War II. Eventually, however, she was arrested herself and put into a prison, then to a concentration camp. However, through her trials, she relied on God, who was always present with her. For example, in her autobiography the Hiding Place, she describes a particular scene that I believe exemplifies God’s omnipresence in our lives.
During her time in solitary confinement at a Nazi concentration camp, she’s told that her father has died at another camp. As a guard walks past her cell, she cries, “This letter just came – it says that my father has died.” The guard shrugs it off in reply as if the information is meaningless to him. Corrie had spoken to him in order to receive any kind of comfort or consolation from this man. (Comfort and consolation from a Nazi? Who was she kidding?) After feeling an overwhelming sense of distress, she prayed “Dear Jesus…how foolish of me to have called for human help when You are here.” Not only did Corrie realize in that moment that man’s comfort is minuscule in comparison with God’s, but when Corrie recognized that God was always with her because he is omnipresent, she was truly comforted and strengthened.
Many people feel lonely. In fact, our sense of loneliness has risen over the last few decades. According to Fortune Magazine, in the 1970s and 1980s the percentage of Americans who responded that they regularly or frequently felt lonely was between 11% and 20%. However, in 2010, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) did a nationally representative study and found the amount of lonely Americans was 40% to 45%. Recently, the University of California of San Francisco estimated 43% of Americans feel lonely. Basically, a lot of people feel lonely.
But here’s the thing: We’re never alone. No matter where you go, there is always someone there, and that’s God.
(Recently, I was perusing Facebook, and saw that a friend had quoted the youth pastor at my old church. Oh my goodness, I almost gagged at the quote: “Loneliness is an illusion.” I wanted to slam the keyboard keys and retort, “NOOOOOOOO.” I understand if this youth pastor is referring to what I just wrote (i.e. God is everywhere, so we’re never truly alone). However, I want to make it perfectly clear that the feeling of loneliness is real and valid. “Loneliness” is exclusively a feeling, not a state of being. Perhaps if this youth pastor had said, “The belief you are alone is an illusion” would have been much better and more theologically correct.)
In man’s eyes, there’s an upside and downside to God’s omnipresence. The upside is that even when we feel lonely, we’re not. I remember during my “Dark Year” I continually just relied on the idea that God was with me. I couldn’t feel Him, and I didn’t hear from Him. I just knew theologically He was right beside me, so on my worst days, I held on to that truth. Even when I felt abandoned and forgotten about by the people around me, I knew that God was with me. I knew even when I didn’t feel.
But here’s the downside for many people – many people try to hide from God, because they realize that since God is everywhere all the time, He also knows when they sin. They shun His Word and the Savior He provided out of fear. For example, right after my “Dark Year”, I started dating a guy (who ironically was the cause of the initiation of my “Dark Year” – more on that another time). After a couple months of dating, we started going farther and farther physically. Although we never went “all the way”, I remember feeling so ashamed as we made out because I knew God was there, and that He knew exactly what we were doing. At about 1 am in the morning every time, my ex would kick me out of his house, and I would slowly get into my car. I would turn the engine on and whisper pathetically, “Oh God, I am so sorry.” God had been there and was fully aware of the sin I had just been doing. I also felt so ashamed that God knew I had no intention of stopping that sin. After some time, I stopped praying and reading my Bible, because it was like walking up to your mom when you know you just did something horrible behind her back and you can’t bear to face her. A few months later, my ex broke up with me. To this day, I believe God had a hand in it in order to stop us from having sex and to keep us away from one another for good. (I mean, we were not compatible and it was a pretty bad relationship after all.)
Yet, because God knows what we’ve done wrong, whether it be in the past, the present, or the future, He knows that we need a Savior. So instead of hiding from God because He knows our sins, we should be thankful that He provided a Messiah for us! Just as David wrote in Psalm 139, God knows us intimately and fully. He knows exactly what we do, think, and feel at all times. This means God was and always has been aware of our great need for a Savior so we can enter full communion with Him. 2 Timothy 1:9 says, “He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.” God knew – He always knew.
So no, God isn’t an old guy who knows exactly what you’ve been doing all year, so He can decide whether to bless you or give you coals. Instead, God is everywhere and infinite, thus always knowing when we need His help and how greatly we need His salvation. What do you think? Is God’s omnipresence unnerving or comforting? Let’s talk below.