By Mike Genung
Tuesday through Thursday of last week, I stayed at the retreat in Beulah for extended time soaking in God’s presence. As usual, the place was empty during the week, so I had three days of silence.
For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel,
“In returning and rest you shall be saved;
in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”
For God alone my soul waits in silence;
from him comes my salvation.
O Lord, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.
As God has taught me, it is in silence where we are best able to tune into the Holy Spirit and hear His voice. Silence leads to stillness, which is where we experience rest of soul.
My heart was on the crusty side; I’d been travelling a lot since the summer and my emotional energy was low. I began by asking the Lord to reveal Himself to me and bring cleansing where needed.
The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.
Fervent… those 3 days were marked with intense prayer. How often do we throw up words with no heart behind them, rattling off a Christmas list of wants or needs with little passion to know Him before we rush off to the next thing? God has promised that those who seek Him with all their heart will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13), and as usual, He showed up.
Highlights of my time with the Lord included:
* Hearing Him say “I take pleasure in these times alone with you.” Honestly, those words aren’t always easy to receive; I know how flawed I am. But, the filter of self (looking at me instead of Him) blocks the rays of grace from shining in. Staying focused on Him helps me receive His grace; if He says it, why should I doubt what He’s saying?
In human terms, it means a lot to me when someone I care about says “let’s go for lunch,” with no agenda or hidden motives. I believe it’s the same with God; He loves it when His children run to Him and want to enjoy His presence, with no distractions (turn off the phone!) or hurry.
* His Spirit breaking up the hard places of my heart, and cleaning it up. My flesh had been pining for its way in recent weeks and getting louder in its demands; He broke through and provided the rest and cleansing I needed.
Sow for yourselves righteousness;
Reap in mercy;
Break up your fallow ground,
For it is time to seek the Lord,
Till He comes and rains righteousness on you.
* Breakthrough and healing in an unexpected area. God took me to a place in my heart where a lie had been hidden in the shadows for decades, exposed it, and opened the door to healing and freedom. The process included renouncing the lie and breaking the stronghold, and asking the Lord to replace it with His truth and love. Over the years at these silent retreats, I’ve often experienced healing in areas I hadn’t seen before.
* Peace and rest of soul. God gave me Romans 5:1 and other verses that are connected to peace and rest. True peace and deep, rest of soul are not the same as taking time off or taking a nap. Soul-rest comes when all worries, fear, and striving have ceased, we are immersed in God’s presence, and all desire for anything but the Lord has been quenched.
When Thursday morning came and it was time to leave, I didn’t want to go home; I wanted to stay and keep immersing myself in God. This is where the heart of the Christian life comes alive; what it means to “love God with all our heart, mind and soul.”
The best gift you can give God anytime – not just the Christmas season – is you – your undistracted attention over an extended period of time. Some of you were already worn out and beat up before the holidays began; now you’re spinning on the merry-go-round of do-everything-to-make-everyone-happy like an energizer bunny on 10 cups of triple shot espresso.
The crash will come; it’s just a matter of when.
Step back and look at the only thing that will matter one second after you die: your relationship with the Lord. How’s your first love (Rev. 2:4)? Are you walking in a love relationship with Him, or are you choked and burnt out? When’s the last time you spent a day or two alone with Him? Maybe you’re wounded and need His healing and care.
If you’re willing to clear out your schedule and give God the gift of yourself for a day or two, you may discover that He gives you far more than you could ever give Him in return. You may have to go against the grain of what status quo Christianity says we’re supposed to do this time of the year, but so what? There are many religious people in the church who know little of what it means to have a life giving, heart-connected, relationship with Jesus. If you want to experience the abundant life that overflows and heals at a deep level, it will require taking the action steps that many in church, even pastors, avoid.
The owners of the retreat in Beulah told me they’ve encouraged pastors, the shepherds we look to for guidance on what walking with Christ is about, to come away for time with the Lord. They told me the response they usually receive from pastors is “Sorry, too busy.” No wonder so many are burning out.
“Too busy” has been choking people’s relationship with the Lord for centuries.
“In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and trust is your strength.”
May you embrace the rest of soul He has for you.
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.