My family and I are in the middle of a journey. We are traveling to various places around the world sharing ‘Heartbreakingly Beautiful’ with friends old and new. In the midst of our physical travel, I am aware of a new lesson that aspires to permeate deeply into the heart of my spiritual journey. The lesson is one Beth grasped well: how to BE Present in the Presence of Jesus!
Do you remember Beth’s ‘travel prayer’ in Psalm 139? “You go before me, you follow up behind and you place your hand of blessing upon my head.” Beth spoke this prayer out loud with us every time she had to take another dreaded trip to hospital. It became one of her theme verses and a prayer that she would indeed notice the presence of Jesus going before her, following behind her and with her in every moment.
As her mum, I was certainly aware of Beth’s human weaknesses and faults. But as her mum, I also knew how hard all this was for her and how courageously she pressed on each day. I often marveled when she talked about the reality of the presence of God she experienced. I am still grappling with these issues through the pain of my grief but again Beth has paved the way to where the deep treasures lie. The ability she possessed to sense God’s presence was a real gift to her receptive heart. I believe that because her heart lay open and vulnerable, she was able to feel the presence of Jesus, through His Spirit, in her suffering like at no other time in her life. He gave her that gift to enable her to confidently endure the fiery trial and securely lead her Home. We believe that He traveled the way before her, He is following up behind her and His hand of blessing is still upon her. He did all this for my girl before her creation, during her creation, during her life here on earth and through the process of her death. Beth believed in the promise of the eternal presence of God. She acknowledged God’s presence, looked for it and practised it – well before authentic feelings of His presence overwhelmed her in her time of need.
Friends, learn from Beth and others who have sought God in their pain and found Him. The Word of the Lord says “Seek and you shall find!” (See Jeremiah 29:13 & Matthew 7:7) Do you remember playing ‘hide and seek’ as a child? Some wise ones before us have wondered whether this hide and seek game is a reflection of what is going on in the Heavenlies. At times, God does appear to ‘hide’ His face from us. Just like in the game, if we stop looking too soon, we will miss out on the encounter – the ‘finding’. God’s momentary ‘hiding’ may be just the thing that draws out our faith and our longing for more of His presence in our lives. When we so discover and finally open ‘the present of His presence’ in our lives, the joy of the find makes the short time of the apparent absence all the more worth it!
If you are like me, I often look for God’s presence outside of myself – high above and in obvious places looking over me. But let us remember that while God is everywhere (we simply cannot escape His presence – look again at Psalm 139) there is much more promised for those who are united with Christ by their faith in Him. Incredibly, the very Spirit of God lives inside us! So the reality of the presence of Jesus in our lives is not just all around us, it is also IN us! “And this is the secret; Christ in you the hope of glory!” Colossians 1:27b
“Lord, You have promised to BE present with me through absolutely everything and I believe that You are with me, in me, beside me and all around me – just as your Word tells me. But lately I just can’t FEEL You! Help me to notice You, to pay attention to where You have gone before me and show me the ways You are following up behind. I am weary Lord and need Your hand of blessing upon my head and Your peaceful presence in the depths of my soul. I want to know You Jesus and I rejoice that You have found me. Please teach me how to listen to Your voice, rest in You and receive all You desire to give me as Your Body, Your Bride, Your Child and Heir. May I be increasingly aware of You and see You fully present in my circumstances. Help me, Oh Saviour, to BE Present in Your Presence right now.”
Songs to encourage you:
He is With You by Jordan Worner
I Am Not Forgotten by Watoto Children’s Choir
At the Cross by HillSong United
Books to build you up:
Here is some inspiration for your journey as you practise God’s presence in your life…
Practising the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence
George Muller of Bristol by A.T. Pierson