Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Got Stress? Need God?

Dear Friends,

Surveys show that Americans are more stressed than ever these days. Even with good, steady jobs we can feel overworked, undervalued, underpaid, unappreciated and go home at night stressed and exhausted. And there’s still the shopping, cleaning, paying bills, medical problems, pets, people, noisy neighbors, church responsibilities, phone calls, television, internet, laundry, children and grandchildren. Even the enjoyable things in life can seem overwhelming at times.

And we search for relief from life. We know there’s someOne who can help. But where is He? Where is God when we need Him most? And we can find ourselves searching for more God when we already have more of God than we know.

We only search for what we have already experienced. We only search for that which is missing and it is impossible to miss something that never existed for us. And that means that in our fervent search for God’s presence in our life, we may be searching for something that we already have.

Augustine was a bishop, a Christian theologian and one of the early Church Fathers of our faith. He wrote about God, “You were within me but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for You. Created things kept me from You.”

God is already within us. 1 Cor 3:16 (NLT) Jesus Christ lives within every believer and the Holy Spirit gives us life. Romans 8:10-11 (NLT) The Apostle Peter said if you repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus, then you will receive the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:38 And Augustine reminds that, while God is within each one of us, there are things that we do which reveal His presence and things we do that distract us and quench His presence. Life happens and we can become so distracted with the created things, that we can no longer see the Creator within. 

That’s when we start our search – our quest – for more God. And looking on our outside, we find things that we think may be helpful. A new book, a new religious television show, a new church, a new way to pray, a new devotional practice. But if God is already within us, maybe it’s not what we add to our life that reveals His presence, but what we need to take away.

A few years ago, I worked a high-stress, nine hour per day job that kept me so busy I was either working or thinking about work. Now in retirement, I’m just as busy doing all the church and religious things and I’m again missing the presence of God. I need to go to the sanctuary.

Saint Andrew’s Abbey is a monastery in Valyermo and I used to think of it as the place where I could always go to meet God – as if God was sequestered at the monastery and I could find Him there. Then the Holy Spirit showed me something that gave me a different understanding of His presence. 

When I step on to those old monastery grounds at the base of the San Gabriel mountains, I’m stepping off the hamster wheel of life. When I sit, still and quiet beside the lake, and breathe the sagebrush scented air, the clutter of created things falls away. When I open my Bible to read, I come into His presence. But I see now that God is not waiting for me to come and join Him in the sanctuary of the monastery. I brought Him with me in the sanctuary of my heart. He’s been there within me all along but I’d buried Him under the clutter of my life. And in that quiet and holy place at the monastery, all the “created things” that had been keeping me from Him were stripped away.

Where is your holy place? That sacred space where the clutter of your life falls away to reveal the Heavenly Father within. Where you come into His presence and just rest awhile. Augustine wrote, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”

Are you searching for the One who has already found you? Just stop what you’re doing for a moment. Take a deep breath and set everything aside. When all the created things have been stripped away, you’ll find Him. Waiting for you. In the sanctuary of your heart.  Amen?

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The AMEN Corner is a weekly devotional for the family and friends of New Hope Family Church. It is intended for this devotional to be strengthening, encouraging or comforting and your comments too should be for the glory of God and reflect the intended purpose of these posts.

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