My spiritual emergency kit. Three tools are in my spiritual emergency kit. I use them when I lose my peace, that is to say, when I lose the awareness of God’s presence “. . . for He Himself is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14). These three Bible-based tools are guaranteed to help us be conscious of God’s presence and His peace, no matter the circumstances. What are they?
- Praise and thanksgiving,
- Talking with Him, and
- Meditating on Scripture
Why this post and why now? I struggled this past month to write a blog post (that has turned into a small booklet) about finding the presence of God. The month began with walking in victory, feeling God’s peace pretty much all day. But then as trial after trial happened, peace and awareness of His presence wobbled. With each trial, I felt separated from Him for a longer time. Then came a series of progressively downward spirals that left me panicky and discouraged three days in a row, unable to feel God’s presence.
What was happening and why do we all need an emergency kit?
God must train us to keep ourselves calm in hard times. With the “troubles, trials, distress, and frustration” of this world (John 16:33, AMPC), we Christ followers must be able to keep ourselves calm. This essential ability comes only with training. “Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) is the man whom You discipline and instruct, O Lord, and teach out of Your law that You may give him power to keep himself calm in the days of adversity, until the [inevitable] pit of corruption is dug for the wicked.” (Psalm 94:12-13, AMPC).
He uses trials to trains us all. I believe God allows circumstances to press us hard sometimes . . .
. . . so that we will wobble. . .
. . .so that the effort to regain balance can strengthen us.
Being forced to work hard to regain our peace strengthens the mental and spiritual muscles that keep us walking in step with the Spirit (Galations 5:25) just as balance practice strengthens our body. Physical therapy for a broken ankle, which I have had, includes standing on a wobbly board (which is actually called a “wobble board”) so that injured muscles affecting balance must work harder. In doing so, muscles as well as nerve connections are strengthened.
God trains us all where we need it most. Losing conscious awareness of His presence tilts my world. I believe that, in order to strengthen me where I am weak, God purposely withdrew awareness of His presence often this past month. And I say OUCH! But I also thank God, because it know it is necessary and it is turning out for my good (Hebrews 12). God alone knows the human heart, and He knows just where each of us needs to be strengthened the most. Where do you need to be stronger?
God also must constantly prune our flesh away (John 15:1-7). God had to shear off more pride from my heart this month. This entire past month, I labored to finish the piece about finding God’s presence, so I could pursue my own agenda—two books I wanted to get online and put on the Resources tab. But the little manuscript kept growing and growing. Instead of praying and asking God what he was showing me with the delay, I kept trying to do His work my way, according to my plans. Can you see the pride? God was training me to let Him lead in His work. He was also hacking off pride and stubbornness I could not see.
So, as the month went on, with trials steadily coming and being unable to find God even when I was writing, I grew desperate! That showed me I needed a definite plan for what to do when I lost awareness of God’s presence and His peace. I needed a spiritual emergency kit. As I prayed, I realized three simple spiritual disciplines never, no never, no never fail me!
Guarantee Number One: Thanksgiving and praise. In Psalm 100:4, God tells us to “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.” To me, that says we take the initial step toward God, or go through the gate, by giving Him thanks. Then, once inside the gate, we may draw nearer. As we praise Him, from inside the gate now, we may enter into His courts, where His presence is.
When I have lost awareness of God and His peace, I start thanking Him for what is right in front of me—being healthy enough to carry my laundry to the little laundry room, having all the clothes I need, not having to do the laundry by hand, etc. As I keep thanking Him, He uplifts my head (Psalm 3:3), just as He did for David when he was fleeing from countless enemies, including his own son, Absalom. I find His rest and then confidence in God replaces the fear (Psalm 3: 5-8).
Feeling God’s presence after a separation brings such relief that praise follows automatically. When someone gives you a cold drink on a hot day, you say thank you and then “Man, that hits the spot!” You talk about how relieved you feel. You are, in a sense, praising or appreciating and admiring that drink of cold water. So, when I feel separated from God I can offer my sincere thanks to Him and then praise Him by expressing my appreciation for what He does and my admiration of who He is, just like I would verbalize appreciation for a cool drink. That, of course, gets my mind off my problems and I start thinking on the countless wonderfulnesses of God.
When a small child gets upset, a loving father takes that child into his embrace, and calms the child by getting his little mind on something else. In the deepest sense, I think I am like that.
Guarantee Number Two: Just talk with Him! It takes effort to develop the habit of constantly talking with God all day. In the little book “Practicing the Presence of God”, Brother Lawrence shows us how to do that, and he admits it was a challenge for him, too, at first. He said “. . . a little effort was needed to form the habit of continually conversing with God, telling Him everything that was happening. However, after a little careful practice, God’s love refreshed him, and it all became quite easy.” (The Practice of the Presence of God ,p. 14)
Simply talking with God, and especially out loud, is one of the quickest ways I know to feel God’s peace. Yet so many, many times I forget and let my mind spin and spin, worrying or overplanning or whatever else is not worth thinking about! I have learned, though, to just start talking with God about whatever is right in front of me. If I try to think of something important or proper to say, the mind keeps on spinning. Like Brother Lawrence, I have learned to talk with Him about whatever I am doing at the moment. And sometimes it seems talking about the little things helps most.
I do not know why this “works” but God says He wants us to be at peace and He wants us to abide, or live with Him, constantly. This “just talking” with Him is, of course, one form of prayer, but for me it is separate from regular devotional times. I think this is one way to “Pray continually” (I Thessalonians 5:17, NIV)
Guarantee Number Three: Meditate on His Word. I have learned, the hard way, that if I keep a Bible verse in the front of my mind for even a few moments, I feel better. When attention is focused on the Word, there is no mental space left for negative feelings or problems. I either repeat verses I know or ones I am currently working on memorizing. For me, memorization requires repeating a phrase over and over and over yet again. And, as I do that, God gives more understanding than when I just read that verse or passage. But you do not have to try to memorize the verse or verses. Just think about them and turn them over and over in your mind, talking with God about what they mean.
God tells us many times in the Word to keep His Word in our conscious mind all day long. When I forget, feelings turn ugly and discouraging. But every time I get my mind on the Word, His Word successfully accomplishes God’s purpose in my life (Isaiah 55:11), because God’s Word is “alive and powerful” (Hebrews 4:12, NLT).
Years ago while in Al-Anon and before I knew Jesus, I learned that I can only think about one thing at a time, that I have one mind, and I can choose to think about good things or about bad. Learning that concept was necessary to survive that troubled time in my life. The same understanding helps me today.
We have to, of course, live daily life but while we work, exercise, drive, take out the trash or whatever we are doing, we can keep our mind on a Scripture.
A personal example. While writing this blog post, I once again proved to myself the effectiveness of the emergency kit. I paused in the writing to take my new kitten to the veterinarian where I learned he still has ringworm, as well as another skin problem, will need two more weeks of treatment (after four weeks already) and there will be another big bill. I FELT deflated as I drove home, with loud meows all the way. However, in between the meows, while poking my finger through the carrier’s wire sides, trying to soothe the kitten, I chose to thank God that I had the kitten, that there was enough money to cover the expense, that cures had been discovered, etc.
Then, as we walked up the stairs, I just talked with Him about my fears and asked Him to help me have faith about it all. Finally, as I gave the kitten a treat and rested in the rocker, Holy Spirit and I returned to my current memory passage, Psalm 27, where it says “He makes my feet like hinds’ feet [able to stand firmly or make progress upon the dangerous heights of testing and trouble]’ He sets me securely upon my high places.” (AMPC)
“Lord, this is a time of testing and trouble but I know You are making me stronger through this concern about my kitten’s health and about finances. I know You are teaching me to stand firm and to keep moving forward with our life together, even though . . . “
Holy Spirit, kitten and I had a peaceful evening together.