When you struggle in prayer, it does not mean God is far from you. That is the time the Spirit intercedes for you. That’s what Paul, our brother and apostle, said. Do you know what that means? The Spirit is alive in you. He is not an inert substance, but a living presence that shares the will of the Father and the mind of Christ. And, in the sharing, none of them are lessened or diminished. Each of them, the presence, the mind of Christ, the will of God, is fully alive in you. This is what is meant by the love of God: you are not alone, never alone. That is the “always.” It never changes. Though you dwell in the depth of the sea, walk in the valley of shadows, or struggle through jungles of despair, He is there.
When you are discouraged, it doesn’t mean that Father is far from you. It means He is very near. The discouraged feeling is not God’s absence or presence, it is your focus on the things that are less important than His purposes. If you can turn toward His kingdom and righteousness, you can move forward despite feeling discouraged.
So, when prayer is a struggle, remember the Presence. When you feel the absence, let that be a reminder of His “always.”
I’ve been reluctant to admit it too publicly, but I’ve been exploring a personality typing system called the Enneagram. Maybe you’ve heard of it. It divides people into nine basic types and identifies the tendencies, strengths, and weaknesses of each one.
There are other systems, of course. You may have heard of Myers-Briggs; Taylor-Johnson; StrengthsFinder; DiSC Assessment—the list is lengthy. Seems like everybody is at least a little curious to know about themselves. Just why do I do what I do? That question could be unhealthy if it causes me to become self-absorbed and self-centered. On the other hand, to be self-aware isn’t such a bad thing. John Calvin, in his Institutesproposed that “without knowledge of self there is no knowledge of God” and then went on to suggest that the converse was also true. The point being that when kept in balance, self-knowledge is probably a good thing. It keeps me from operating on impulse without knowing why.
A couple months ago, the women in the area got together for a prayer summit. One of the big takeaways of the gathering was the issue of ‘offense.’ The ladies came back convicted that carrying around offenses, that is feelings of resentment, anger, disgust and distrust was toxic to their spiritual life.
In the weeks since the summit, many of us have wrestled with the sneaky nature of this thing called “offense.” The fact is, we often feel entitled to it. People or conditions in the world can awaken feelings both subtle and not so subtle that can churn at our insides and pollute our relationships.
Offense is bit like a virus that lies dormant, waiting for our immune system to weaken enough for it to awaken sin. It’s wise, then, to be aware of it and treat the virus before it makes us sin-sick. Moreover, if we’re not careful we can pass it along to others. A negative or cynical comment can infect our friends and family with offense.
Lately, in the midst of this particularly nasty flu season and a largely ineffective flue vaccine, I’ve been intentionally compulsive about washing my hands. I have been trying to be aware of what I touch and of not touching my face. All this so I can avoid getting sick with the flu. If I can stay healthy, I’ll be just one less carrier of the virus. Anyway, who wants to be sick? Not me.
I am thinking of “offense” as a virus. If I can keep from getting offended or, at least from expressing the things that I’ve gotten offended about–biting my tongue, if you please–perhaps my world can be less toxic.
Occasionally, I am amazed at the perseverance of some of the Biblical characters. Elijah and the drought, for example. The prophet prays for rain, asks his assistant if he sees anything—nothing—and so Elijah goes on praying. I would have looked at the sky a couple of times and figure God wasn’t going to come through for me. Then I would have gone home.
First, a lament: Where have I been on our website for, lo, these many weeks — dare I say, months? Ugghhh. What a slacker. What a slug! Ah, me!
OK, that’s done. I am suitably self-chastened. Now, down to some business.
I have been doing quite a bit of reading lately. If you’re interested in what’s been passing under my curious eyeballs, you can click “What Dan’s Been Reading” under the “Reading” tab on the toolbar. Actually, the list isn’t truly up to date, but I’m adding to the list as I remember where I’ve been.
Presently, l’m reading The Aqua Church, by Len Sweet. The following quote caught my attention:
If community is that which is created by shared experiences, communities of faith are built from the sound up. Sharing the same mission, eating the same food, and singing the same melodies result in the experience of community.
Sweet, Leonard. AquaChurch 2.0: Piloting Your Church in Today’s Fluid Culture (p. 151). David C. Cook. Kindle Edition.
This is a simple way of describing the life of a relational church. I often advise people who want to build a church family to eat together and make singing a priority. Singing together calls a group of people to speak the same truths — the exact same truths — together at the same time. It is a community declaration of purpose. Far from a perfunctory component of a gathering, it is a needed opportunity to strengthen foundations and shore up the walls of faith.