When you are used up and tired out, frazzled and discouraged, where do you wish you could go? For me, it is a stream in Montana where I am fly fishing in pristine water, the mountains in the background, and the big sky that gives Montana its name, Big Sky Country. For me, it is a place of peace, restoration, and refreshment. It is where I can step out of the rush of life and experience quietness and rest for my body and soul.
I am sure you have a place like that, as well. It is where we wish we were when we wake up in the middle of the night with anxiety on our minds. Our lives are so very full, so packed with people and activities, so filled with obligations that we often lose our joy, our purpose, and our connection with God. The more we wish we could go to our place of peace, the more we probably need to live with less noise, busyness, and obligation.
Why is this so important? Scripture says in several places and in several different ways to “Be still and know that I am God.” How hard it is to just be still. Being still is turning off all the external stimuli that bombards us constantly. It is finding time to be alone with God because there is a connection between stillness and experiencing the presence of God.
Think of this as space. You have a limited amount of space in your life. That space is filled with all the things that make up our lives. Family, relationships, kids, ministry, work, recreation, television - whatever it is that fills your space. However, the question is this: How much space is left for God in your day or week? Each of us has the same amount of space in a 24 hour day. But is there space left over for God? Or is He crowded out?
One of the things that stands out with Jesus is that he routinely went away alone, up the mountain to quiet and secret places, where He could be with His Father. So here is the God of the universe making Space for His Father because He needed it just like we do. So again, the question. How much space do you make in your life for God, or is He crowded out?
Here is the interesting thing. It takes some space to recognize and live in the presence of God. “Be still and know that I am God.” It is stillness in making space for God that we best recognize His presence and feel that presence. The reason is simple. Like in any relationship, where there is no quality time, the relationship suffers. That is why we spend quality time with our spouse or close friends. It is in quality time together that we know and appreciate one another.
I wonder how often we miss out on God’s personal touch on our lives because we are too busy to let Him in. When we fill our lives with wall-to-wall activities, we start to live out of obligation instead of in the grace and peace of Jesus. Our lives become activity and obligation without rest and the grace, peace, and presence of God. That is a common tradeoff in a world with too little space for God.
Lent is a time to be still and know that He is God. To be still and silent enough to experience His loving presence and allow Him to restore your peace. Instead of activity and obligation, it is a time to carve out space for Him to occupy.
One of the significant figures in the Old Testament was a prophet by the name of Elijah. In 1 Kings, we find him running for his life from an evil king. He is tired, worn out, discouraged, hungry, and used up. It was one of those kinds of seasons of life. Finally, after traveling forty days and nights, he reached a place called Horeb, the mountain of God, and he went into a cave to spend the night.
Let’s pick up the story from 1 Kings 19:9. “And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” So the Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind, there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. A fire came after the earthquake, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
Did you catch that? The Lord was not in the wind. He was not in the earthquake. He was not in the fire, but he came with a gentle whisper. It is often how God talks to us. But unless we make space for Him and find times when we can be in His presence without distractions, we don’t experience His peace or hear His whisper. That whisper and that presence are exactly what we need on a regular basis.
God designed us for Himself. So when we are overcommitted and tired for long periods, the chances are that we are doing things He never asked us to do and living out of obligation rather than in fellowship with Him.
Father, teach me to make plenty of space for you in my life. Teach me to turn off the noise and distractions and obligations that keep me from your presence and from hearing your voice. Remind me often that space for you is the most crucial space in my life. Teach me to be still and know that you are God. Amen.
The question for today: What can I do to live a less distracted life and make more space for Jesus in my day?