The Restorative Presence of God
A couple of days ago I wrote about Hurry Sickness. I mentioned one of the keys to overcoming that is silence. Today I want to take that deeper. One of the most important benefits of spending time in silence is that we can access the restorative presence of God.
Years ago I was coming out of a tough season at church. I had been preaching on themes of revival because I sensed the Lord leading me to do that. But I had encountered a lot of resistance. There were some blogs written against me. Someone created an imaginary Facebook name and started friending people from church and writing against me. There were even radio shows done in Boston against me.
I went away to the monastery just to get alone with God - as was my custom. And the moment I drove onto the driveway of this place that had been such a haven to me I heard the Spirit of God whisper to me, “Mend the nets.” I was puzzled. “Mend the nets?!? What does that mean?” And then I was struck by anxiety. It felt like a firehose of anxiety had been turned on in my soul. I got out of my car and went into my room at the monastery, hit my knees and started praying.
There are many possible causes to anxiety. Sometimes I have felt anxiety because I have too many balls in the air - I have taken on assignments that the Lord has not given to me. I am too busy and my soul starts to vibrate. Side effects of hurry sickness. Sometimes I feel anxiety because I am standing on the wrong foundation. It is an identity issue - rather than standing on the foundation of God’s unshakable, unconditional love, I am standing on the foundation of people pleasing. The issue of my value is dependent upon whether or not certain people love me. Of course that is not true, but sometimes we live like it is true and that is a shaky foundation. Or at other times I am standing on the false foundation of performance. My value depends on my performance and I am left with performance anxiety. That too is like building a house on the sand. When you stand on any platform but the sure, unconditional love of God, you can be subject to the inner tremors of anxiety. But as I asked the Lord about these things and some others, each time He assured me that this was not the issue.
For three days I stayed at the monastery. For three days the firehose or anxiety ran uninterrupted within my soul. The last day I got up and said, “Lord, I am not leaving until you tell me what this is and what to do about it.” I think far too often in our Christian journeys rather than going to God for a solution until He delivers, we go to every other means possible. We don’t press in and press through; we send God a brief text for help and if He doesn’t answer quickly and to our liking we move on to other possible sources of relief. My friend Ron Walborn says we often treat God as the God of the last resort. But He wants to be the God of our first defense.
I went into the chapel and I waited on God. Psalm 62:1 says, “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from Him comes my salvation.” There are times when we have prayed all we can pray, we have said all we can say, we have done all we can do and all that is left to do is to wait upon the Lord until He delivers. I was waiting.
After about 45 minutes in silent waiting the Lord spoke. I heard Him say, “Psalm 23.” Of course, like you, I know Psalm 23. The Lord is my Shepherd. I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside quiet waters (literally waters at rest). He restores my soul.
That was as far as I got. That phrase - He restores my soul - lept off the page at me. The Spirit was breathing on it. He restores my soul. I lingered with that phrase and waited on the presence of God for another 30-45 minutes. And finally, the Spirit spoke and brought clarity. He said to me, “My Presence comes in many forms. There is my healing presence. There is my loving presence. There is my filling presence. But what you need is my restorative presence. It can only be accessed through silence and solitude. (Think about the images of Psalm 23 - green pastures, still waters - places or quiet) You have been on the front lines of battle and you have taken many hits. Now you must access my restorative presence. I will restore your soul.”
Mend the nets. Fisherman of old used to have to repair the mesh nets by hand. They would be worn, tattered and torn by repeated use. Such was the state of my soul. My soul was torn by life and only the restorative presence of God could mend it. So I waited.
Every day I came before the Lord and I sat. In silence. In solitude. I didn’t say anything. I didn’t pray anything. I didn’t sing anything. I simply sat still and fixed my loving attention on His Presence. Over the next three months the anxiety drained. My soul was restored. The anxiety went from firehose status, to an intermittent flow, until finally it disappeared altogether.
It was an experience that changed me. Not just for that moment or that season but for the rest of my life. I have never lost sight of the need for silence and solitude. Silence has become one of my essential spiritual practices. In an era of over busyness, continual noisiness, constant distractedness and soul weariness, silence and solitude are like an antidote to our Hurry Sick ways. They repair the inner nets of a soul worn traveler. They quiet the internal tremors of a fast-paced pilgrim. They quiet the stormy lake of our inner being. Build silence and solitude into your life. Prioritize it. Over time you will learn to access the restorative presence of God.