As he tries to prepare his followers for this new reality, Jesus challenges his disciples to be “witnesses” throughout the world, as if he is in some way passing his ministry of love, compassion and freedom to them. At the same time, in today’s Gospel reading, Jesus makes the reassuring promise: “Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”Jesus ascends into the heavens and his followers are left with the same experience that most of us have of Jesus. We experience him without seeing him in physical form. Jesus says he is with us always. If you’re like me, you struggle to live as though this is true. Jesus doesn’t say, “I am with you when you are feeling happy,” or “I am with you when things are going your way.” Nor does he say, “I am with you some of the time.” Jesus is with us always. That should be a great relief to us, but if things are going poorly in my life, or if I am tuned into the horrible disasters and suffering in the world, I tend to live as though Jesus is otherwise occupied and determine that I must fend for myself. When this happens, I try and control my life — my finances, my relationships and my future. How are we to be Jesus’ “witnesses” to the rest of the world if we don’t live like he is with us always?But how are we to be Jesus’ “witnesses” to the rest of the world if we don’t live like he is with us always? That is a question I ask myself. It seems unlikely that anyone would guess that I have any faith in God if I live as if God isn’t really here at all.Yet he is here. He is with each of us, and he is with us in our communities, nations and planet. God has all we need, whether we know it or not, and whether we feel it or not. Meanwhile, we try and solve our problems alone, fretting and plotting to secure the lives we desire. We don’t have to. Jesus is with us. The presence of God in Christ is with us. What more could we possibly need? What other resource could we possibly desire?Jesus has left the plant in physical form. We don’t see him walking, talking, teaching and healing. We are left to the challenge of experiencing his presence spiritually, and to the challenge of believing he is with us even when it doesn’t feel like it. Is God with us in the Great Recession? Is God with us as we lose so many other things — homes, jobs and savings? Jesus says he is with us always. Our challenge is to believe this always, and to always live in this truth.Bill Peatman writes from Napa. He may be reached at [email protected]{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2011/0603/peatman/{/gallery}