Weary. Worn Out. Done. Spent. These are a few words I’ve heard others use recently to describe how they are doing. I've been there myself. Can you relate?
We’ve been through so much in just a few short months, and the ongoing challenges, uncertainty, stress, and strife are taking a toll. Though we have our own struggles and concerns, we’re all essentially walking through a wilderness season together. Perhaps one of the reasons we’re seeing so much conflict and discord right now is that many are weary from the journey and desperately in need of refreshment and renewal. It’s hard to offer love, understanding, and kindness when we’re worn out and running on empty.
I once had a green plastic watering can I used to water my flowers on the deck and front porch. One day I noticed that it was leaking water through a small hole in the bottom. It was just a little drip at first. But over time the hole became larger, which allowed more water to leak out. That meant I had to fill up the can more often in order to be able to water all of the flowers.
A similar thing happens with us. We need continual filling and replenishment because we’re “leaky vessels,” especially in challenging seasons when the “holes” become larger and we’re drained more quickly. But unlike my watering can, we don’t have to look to external sources for our filling. In fact, they can never fill us. Our filling comes from the Spirit of God, who is not only beyond us but also within us.
"We renew our souls and spirits by connecting and communing with the God of the universe,
who dwells within us."
We renew our souls and spirits by connecting and communing with the God of the universe, who dwells within us (John 14:23, 1 Corinthians 3:16, Colossians 1:27). What an amazing and incredible mystery! This is such great news, because it means that God is always as close as our very breath. In times when God seems distant, the problem is not that God is far away but that we’re not connected or attuned to God’s presence. Though many of us believe that God is always with us, we don't always experience the reality of God's presence—because experiencing God’s presence is a matter of awareness.
"Experiencing God’s presence is a matter of awareness."
Spiritual practices such as prayer, meditation, Scripture reading and study, worship, silence, service, and others are tools or vehicles that help us to become aware of God’s presence. But unlike these practices that we might do for a certain amount of time at some point during the day, the practice of awareness itself is something we can do throughout the day to stay connected with God and be renewed by his presence. Brother Lawrence called this practicing the presence of God.
How do we do it? We start by simply paying attention to what’s happening both inside us (our thoughts, feelings, and sensations) and around us (our experiences and observations). Nothing is too insignificant to notice, including the little gifts that come to us each day—such as a beautiful sky, an encouraging word from a friend, a moving song, a loving embrace, or a million other little things. As we’re paying attention to these things, we do so with an awareness that God is both present with us and ready to communicate with us.
That’s it. It’s not complicated, and it can become as natural as breathing. The idea is to see everything as an opportunity for experiencing God, "in [whom] we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28 NIV).
As we practice the presence of God, we can carry on an internal dialogue with God about our thoughts, feelings, experiences, and observations. Here are some questions we can ask God in any moment:
How are you present right now?
What do you have to say to me about this, or through this?
What does this reveal about your presence or activity?
Is this leading me closer to you or away from you?
What is your invitation to me in this moment?
This kind of conversation is a way of praying continually (1 Thessalonians 5:16) as we filter everything through our connection with God. As we do this, everyday activities such as doing the dishes, mowing the lawn, walking the dog, driving, working on the computer, or daydreaming become experiences of God’s near and intimate presence. Even moments of sadness, grief, fear, or anger can become gifts or graces when we realize God's loving presence is with us—and for us.
About a month ago my car was broken into while I was hiking. Throughout my hike I was talking with God about all that I was seeing, thinking, and feeling—and on that particular day, it was a lot! As I neared the end of my hike and was thanking God for the experience, I heard a whisper in my spirit: It’s not over; pay attention; I’m with you. As I reached the parking lot and saw the park ranger standing beside my car with the passenger window shattered, I had a sinking feeling. Just as I feared, my wallet had been stolen. Why did I leave it in the glove compartment? I’m so stupid! I chastised myself.
Silently I whispered, Help me to see you in this, God. Suddenly I was filled with gratitude for the ranger's presence, and I was thankful that I was able to reach my husband, who began to make calls to the bank and credit card companies. I wasn’t alone, and I had the assistance I needed. As I silently talked with God while the park ranger filled out the report, my fears began to subside and I sensed God inviting me to pray for those who had broken into my car. Because I had been practicing God’s presence on my hike, I was able to continue that internal dialogue about a situation that otherwise might have sent me into a tailspin of anxiety.
Practicing the presence of God equips us to be more aware of God’s continual presence, even in the midst of difficult situations or seasons—especially then. My prayer is that as we become more and more aware of God’s very near and intimate presence—not just believing he is with us but actually experiencing it—we will be filled to overflowing with God’s love and kindness. Because when God fills us with awareness of his love and presence, it is not only for ourselves but also for others.
"When God fills us with awareness of his love and presence, it is not only for ourselves but also for others."
As Thomas R. Kelly writes in his classic book A Testament of Devotion, connection with God is the center of life—the “life hid with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). This loving connection with God spills over into all that we do, ultimately changing the world. May it be so, and may it begin with us.
Hi, I'm Sally!
I'm passionate about connecting with God and connecting with people, offering spiritual encouragement and companionship. I'm so grateful to be on the journey with you as we walk with God together.