by Joyce Ewing Chow
Our God is an inviting God. Just look at the many times throughout Scripture where you find the word “Come…” and you will know how much our God longs for intimacy with His people.
Our modern lives in a modern city grow too complex and overcrowded. Our professional status and social obligations lay claims upon us. We are weary and breathless and we regret that our life is slipping away, having tasted so little of peace and joy. In guilty regret we must postpone till next week that deeper life of unshakable composure in the Holy Presence where we sincerely know our true home, for this week is much too full.
The phrase, ‘practising the presence of God’, was coined by Brother Lawrence, a friar who served his monastery as a cook. He had discovered that God was found, not only in the chapel and cloisters of prayer, but also among the pots and pans in the hot kitchen. The secret to finding God, Brother Lawrence discovered, was not in the exterior silence of the place, but in the interior posture of the soul. So Brother Lawrence practiced the presence of God while he was peeling potatoes and stirring stew over the hot stoves by simply being aware of God and giving Him loving attention.
My own experience of realizing the presence of God in every situation was during the darkest period of my life. God’s invitation came to me at a time when I was going through a long, dark Winter. God knows our seasons. He created them. And He has a purpose for every season of our lives. It was during this Winter that I heard God say to me –
“Arise, My darling, My beautiful one, And come with Me. See! The Winter is past; The rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; The season of singing has come…” (Song of Songs 2:10-12)
Those words were to be for me a lifeline out of my bleak, cold, deep freeze.
As the Lover of my soul gently led me through every protest and cry of my heart, I found the sunshine of His grace streaming through the clouds of self-doubt and condemnation. He brought me into a unique dance of freedom, breaking the dark canopy under which I had been trapped for two long years. When I allowed God to break into my life, and I broke with the negative emotions that suffocated my soul, I had a truly liberating breakthrough!
To know the presence of God is to know that He is the Lord of the seasons. In every season of our lives, we need to surrender to His love, His timing and His ways. We need to turn from strife to patient trust. And we need to practice certain spiritual disciplines to receive our enlargement through the seasons.
God responds to the longings in our hearts. When we can identify our longings through every season of our lives, we are actually poised to receive God’s invitation. Here are the tangible handles for each one who desires to practice the presence of God in every season of life and to develop a deeper relationship with Him.
The helpful diagnostic below, adapted from The Handbook of Spiritual Disciplines by Adele Calhoun, will enable you to discern the season you’re currently in, and to adopt the right spiritual discipline to draw yourself into a stronger union and deeper communion with God. This intimacy with God is imperative for your survival as you face the challenges of the changing seasons of your life.
Primary longings in your heart: To know and belong to God. Disciplines to pursue: Confession, Bible study, conversational prayer, worship, spiritual friendship, teachability, discipling.
Primary longings in your heart: To love and be loved; to grow in grace and truth. Disciplines to pursue: Small group, service, community, simplicity, unity, truth-telling, intercession, stewardship.
Primary longings in your heart: To live an authentic life of meaningful contribution. Disciplines to pursue: Examen, mentoring, rule for life, rest, self-care, hospitality, walking prayer, meditation, slowing down.
Primary longings in your heart: To find God in the darkness; to experience the God who is beyond me. Disciplines to pursue: Journaling, devotional reading, detachment, solitude, labyrinth walk, spiritual direction, healing prayer.
Many people struggle with drawing close to God because it takes total honesty to face Him. Humility is the first thing God requires of every seeker. You need to have an open heart to the movements of the Spirit. You need to come into His divine presence with nothing to prove, nothing to hide, and know that you have nothing to lose as you bare yourself before a compassionate God.
God’s presence is like the balm of Gilead. It soothes and it heals. In His presence there is forgiveness. As you yield to His all surpassing grace, your soul will well up in thanksgiving and exultation! Such are the benefits of the presence of God. Moses told God that he would not venture anywhere near enemy territory unless God went with him. Do you now wonder why the devil fights so hard to keep God’s people from coming into God’s presence? Because there is great victory to be found there!
Have you found your freedom in Christ? Have you been healed of the wounds afflicting your soul? Do you know the joy of dancing with the rhythm of the redeemed? When you practise the presence of God, you will know all these, because these are your birthright gifts from God!
As a child of God, I believe that my Abba desires to show me a new way to enjoy the abundant life that He promises. It is in practising His presence daily. Each day as I come to Him, He unpacks new things for me. Sometimes, it will be a new vision from Him. Other times it will be a new understanding of a familiar passage of Scripture, or a new song that spins in my heart. And always, it will be new mercies to make my journey bearable and my burdens light.
As we take this invitation from God to draw closer, sit a little longer, and truly know His presence, He gives suf cient strength to go the distance.We need never grow faint or become weary because we know He is travelling alongside us.
Joyce Ewing Chow, wife of Rev Timothy Chow, helps women across different churches to cultivate a deeper inner life and sensitivity to the voice of God through Soul-Care and Silent Retreats called ‘Heart Spa’. She has authored 2 books, ‘Dancing Through the Seasons – a journey of healing for women’ and ‘Keeping Life Simple’.
This article first appeared in Issue 8, August 2013 CHORUS Magazine.