flourish 1/7: longing for God
A big questions that I've been considering from the beginning of this crisis is: "What is God doing in the midst of this?" I don't believe that a virus like this comes from God, but a crisis like this will surely be used by God to do something significant in our society and in our personal lives. Could it be that God is using this time to draw us closer to Himself? In the coming weeks, we'll be exploring some spiritual practices that can help you to flourish in your relationship with God.
Let me start off with a simple question: On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your spiritual life?
Now, be aware. I'm not asking you to rate your effort, or lack of it. I'm not asking you to rate yourself in comparison to your spiritual superhero or compared to what where you think you should be by now. I'm just asking you to rate your level of fulfilment. Are you satisfied in your relationship with God?
My guess is that the honest answer to this question made you realise that it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to work on this a bit.
Would this time of social sobriety be an opportunity to focus our relational attention on God? Could canceled church meetings perhaps be a sneaky way of God to be invite Himself back into our homes and moments of solitude again? Is it possible that the awakening in our city that we pray for, could start as a time of renewal in our personal lives first?
Waiting for the next move of God
We are currently in the time between Easter and Pentecost. And hopefully, after Pentecost we can have public meetings again. But, let's consider what the disciples of Jesus did between Ascension Day and Pentecost.
Acts 1:12-14 (NLT) Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, a distance of half a mile. When they arrived, they went to the upstairs room of the house where they were staying. (…) They all met together and were constantly united in prayer, along with Mary the mother of Jesus, several other women, and the brothers of Jesus.
Did they immediately begin witnessing? No. They needed time, first with Jesus and after the Ascension together, to digest what had happened. It was a time of preparation before their public ministry would start. In these days after the Ascension, they gathered, just praying and seeking God, until the Spirit came.
I think that this current time is maybe a bit like this as well. It’s a time of waiting and preparing for the next move of God.
I'm inviting you to take this time between Easter and Pentecost to also focus on our relationship with God, experiencing a personal renewal. Only after experiencing a personal renewal can we be agents of renewal in a world that is coming to realise that their foundation is shaking.
The coming six weeks, we’ll be talking about several spiritual disciplines that will enrich your relationship with God. But, in this post, I want to continue this introduction to this focus, but starting at the very beginning.
Seeking spiritual growth and deepening your relationship with God starts with longing. Are you longing for God?
Anja and I spent most of the month of March visiting family in South Africa. Anja’s family lives in a part of the country called the Karoo – which in the Khoikhoi language means: dry land. This is an area you could refer to as semi-dessert. It’s warm, it’s dry, dusty and outstretched. Not the most exciting part of the country to be honest.
Now, I always thought that the Dutch talk about the weather a lot. But the South Africans do just as much! Just in a different way. As some family members from different parts of the country were coming together, I got a full update on most of the country and how much rain they had.
Rain in South Africa is celebrated like sunshine in ours.
Suddenly I understood the meaning of these verses in the Psalms:
O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you.
My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you
in this parched and weary land where there is no water.
As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?
Can you relate?
When I go through a dry spell in my relationship with God, usually due to my own lack of discipline, my soul feels like a dry and parched land. Nothing can grow, nothing can flourish. No good thing can come out of it unless it gets some rain.
Now, unfortunately, there is no ‘presence of God-button’ or ‘blessing-button’ you can push. We’re so used to instant gratification, that we’ve become impatient to really journey with God. But, when we go through a dry spell, we need to realise that there is no formula to make God rain on you.
Yet, I do think that there are some habits we can adopt that will help us to be more receptive to God’s presence and become fertile ground for what He wants to grow in us.
I think now is a great time to honestly look at our spiritual lives and work on some ways to deepen our relationship with God. And from next week onwards, we’ll be exploring some spiritual disciplines that may help you in this journey.
To finish off this post, I want to invite you to a moment of contemplation. I hope that this exercise will help you to get more in touch with your inner longing for God.
Close your eyes, take a deep breath, embrace a moment of silence, settle in, and read slowly through this beautiful Psalm.
1 O God, you are my God;
I earnestly search for you.
My soul thirsts for you;
my whole body longs for you
in this parched and weary land
where there is no water.
2 I have seen you in your sanctuary
and gazed upon your power and glory.
3 Your unfailing love is better than life itself;
how I praise you!
4 I will praise you as long as I live,
lifting up my hands to you in prayer.
5 You satisfy me more than the richest feast.
I will praise you with songs of joy.
6 I lie awake thinking of you,
meditating on you through the night.
7 Because you are my helper,
I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings.
8 I cling to you;
your strong right hand holds me securely.
9 But those plotting to destroy me will come to ruin.
They will go down into the depths of the earth.
10 They will die by the sword
and become the food of jackals.
11 But the king will rejoice in God.
All who swear to tell the truth will praise him,
while liars will be silenced.
Now, take a moment to tell God what it was that spoke to you the most.
What sentence hit you in the gut?
What is the invitation from God to you?
Read slowly through the Psalm again, and see how God confirms this invitation.