Sometimes, our minds fail us. Sometimes, we depend on ourselves to remain in the right mental state to keep us going and to help us to remain calm and steady in the midst of difficulties. If only it were that easy.
I had the opportunity to preach Sunday morning and we looked at Psalm 63. It was written by David when he was wandering in the wilderness of Judah, attempting to survivor the wrath of his son, Absalom. I’ve been reflecting on the message and I so deeply love verses one and two.
“God, You are my God; I shall be watching for You; my soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, in a dry and exhausted land where there is no water. So have I seen You in the sanctuary, to see Your power and glory.”
I want to expand on the thoughts that I shared on verse two, primarily because I want to elaborate, within my own mind, how I can better practice what I preached.
Through all of the intense struggle that David went through during this chapter of his life – alone in the wilderness, without answer as to how it would all end or exactly how God would remain faithful in his life – he still understood that God would not lose control. He understood that God’s promises to him were not about living in luxury or ensuring a certain number of days while on the earth, but instead, God would be present with him and available to give peace and comfort throughout the most difficult of times.
How did David tap into this? As many of us struggle through life, we find that it’s incredibly hard to find God in the midst of our pain. It’s so easy to feel lost and at the mercy of our circumstances. Though we know we need Him, we might not feel so close to Him in our pain.
However, David recalled in the worst of times when it was that he felt God’s presence. He remembered experiencing God’s power and glory while in the sanctuary. Whether this was to do with more formal worship or simply a time where he experienced God’s closeness in daily life, we may not really know, but we are sure that he remembered, in worship, what it was like to have his life dwarfed by the immensity of the God of the universe who walks with him through the good and the bad.
I illustrated this idea with a nightly tradition that I have with Collin. Nearly every night, as he sits up in his top bunk of his bunk bed and watches me as I attempt to close his door, he reaches out with such seriousness on his face and says, “wait dad! I need something to remind me of you!” We then go back and forth while I attempt to convince him that my presence in the next room should be enough. It rarely works. He wants something to hold on to as a reminder that he is safe and loved to carry him through the night. He wants something physical to hold in his hands so that he can remember his mom or myself.
That reminds me of what David did during times like these. He may not have had physical reminders to carry with him, but he did have memories of God’s goodness, faithfulness, and strength with him as he travelled through those desperate places.
Again, I want to explore how to take this concept further in my own personal life. To be sure, I have so many moments in my life where God’s faithfulness has opened my eyes to how blessed I am. And I don’t memorialize those moments enough. But even further, it’s not my personal experiences alone that show how truly good He is. His glory shines much brighter than through my experiences of Him alone.
Rather than remembering only the times of meeting with God, as David did, we have the cross, the empty tomb, and Jesus’s role as Intercessor to fuel our worship. In our desperate times, we get through because we know that His power is sufficient. But how might we set reminders to ourselves?
For me, I have been journaling daily and I highly suggest it, no matter where you are on the spectrum of how much you enjoy the practice. God can use it to draw us in to Himself in ways that has made me love it. Every morning, I wake up, I open up the journal, and I write three things that I’m grateful for about God’s goodness to me over the prior 24 hours. What blessings did I experience for the first time or what memories did my family and I create together? I found this in a format for a free journal online and borrowed it for my own use and it has been a fantastic way to begin things.
After noting those three things I’m particularly grateful for about God’s goodness, I journal a prayer. Some days, it’s long. Some days it’s short. The important thing is that it fits your personality. If you want to use bullet points, use bullet points! If you want to expound on what you’re grateful for that, do it! If you want to ask God to walk with you through the day in very specific ways, He’s reading your thoughts as much as He listens to your prayers! However you use it, it’s so good to start the day connecting with Him and watching, day-after-day, as He answers our prayers and shows His presence when we look for it. I found this idea in another free journal prompt that I loved and adopted it for myself.
The third practice that I do in my journaling is, throughout the day, as I read the Scriptures or learn from people around me, I’ll note how God is teaching me important lessons and how He is calling me to imitate Christ more and more in these lessons. I have a note from this past Sunday when I preached that I will likely use for my next blog post, so stay tuned! I found this in a journal that I purchased that is called The Kairos Journal, and it has brought me many opportunities to connect with God throughout the day when the temptation is to go through the motions of our busy days and think less about how often He’s communicating with us.
The final step for each day’s entry is something that I do at night. When the day has slowed down and there are moments to reflect on God’s lessons to me, I note something that I would like to work on in the future. Was my patience short with the kids when they were complaining about some decision that I had made? Did I fail to ask my wife how she was doing throughout the day as the kids were challenging her own patience? Did I waste too much time on some mindless activity when I knew there was something else God was calling me to do instead? Whatever that might look like for the day, I just finish the thought – “Something to work on from today: _.” One simple sentence, and yet, behind that sentence is a chance to reflect on ways that I can better support my family, answer to my responsibilities as a pastor, be diligent in walking with God through my spiritual growth, etc. I found this in that same Kairos Journal and it has been instrumental in helping me to connect with God’s heart for the moments that I live in every day.
This is one small example of how we might connect with God every day and set memorials of the presence and power that He continually provides us. It doesn’t have to be a huge investment of time, and yet it allows us to escape the tediousness of life and remember all of the ways that He joins us. This practice might not work for you, but I believe that there are many other options that will help you to connect with Him on a daily basis and bring memorials within your own life of how He has answered pray and been present through the ups-and-downs of life.
I have been blessed through a variety of resources that I have pulled from to create this specific practice and I want to share it because of how God has worked through it! I’m praying for you all and I hope that you are renewed every day in the love of God, no matter what you have found that helps you to connect with Him! Have conversations with others about your own practices and enjoy the blessing of community as we draw together and grow alongside one another in His love, grace, and hope.
Love you all,
Young Adult Minister – Evan McNeff