silence, conflict and joy
“You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you.
Trust in the Lord forever,
for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.”
(Isaiah 26:3-4, ESV)
I had enjoyed a closeness with the God of the Universe for most of my life, but lately, I just couldn’t feel His presence. It’s been a really rough year. I’ve been clinging to my Savior and a small group of trusted friends and kind of withdrawing from everything else. Though I grasped tightly to the Spirit, it felt like my fists were empty. It was brutal, but I knew it was temporary. He was with me, even if I couldn’t feel Him. I trusted that and kept going. It was hard, but I continued to pray, to read my Bible, attend church and house church, and share my struggles with my husband and my safe haven of friends. My God would not leave me or forsake me (Hebrews 13:5). Someday I would feel His hands of comfort and hear His voice again.
But I was frustrated, exhausted, and hurting.
Lord, please let it be soon.
Recently, in the midst of this dark moment of faith, I found myself in conflict with a close family member— someone very special not only to me but to my husband and my daughter as well. We were in disagreement over a matter of Spiritual importance. I realized that we were not going to find common ground, at least not at this time. I felt injured. I needed to protect my heart. It became clear that the best way to do that, and to preserve the relationship, was to end the discussion. So I said that, but it was not received well.
I cried and prayed and talked to my husband, and we decided I should reach out again. I wrote to this person, and I said that I was hurt, but I love him, and that he is too important to me to let this come between us.
He didn’t respond.
My stomach was in knots. I prayed. I sought counsel from my husband and from wise friends. I prayed and prayed and prayed some more.
Three days later, my daughter and I were reading aloud a prayer from a favorite app.
“‘In the light of the morning: we will sing for you,’” I read.
“Mama,” my daughter interrupted, “it says ‘joy.’”
“Oh. Sorry. ‘In the light of the morning: we will sing for joy.’”
Three times that line appeared in the reading, and three times I said, “We will sing for you.”
“Mom, it’s ‘joy.’ Why do you keep saying ‘you?’”
“I don’t know. I’m sorry.”
That evening my husband was working late and I had just put our daughter to bed. I cozied up on the couch with a book, but I couldn’t concentrate. I just couldn’t tear my mind away from the conflict with my family member. I shut my book and slid onto my knees on the floor. Propping my elbows on the ottoman and burying my face in my hands, I cried out to God.
I had been praying about this for days, but that night was different. I was overwhelmed with a sense of safety and opportunity. The Spirit was here, and He wanted to engage. Fear, insecurity, desperation, and hope poured out of me. I begged to be purged of pride and filled with humility. I prayed for my family member and this messed up situation. I spilled tears all over the ottoman. I talked and wept until I was emptied. Then I pushed the ottoman out of the way and stretched face down on the floor.
Speak, Lord. I am listening.
Moments passed, and there was nothing. It had been so long since I had heard from God, and I was desperate for His voice. Would He be silent tonight?
I waited. I could not move.
Then I saw a vision of my friend Laneia, sunlight glistening on her cheeks and hair, a beautiful smile on her face. Laneia is in no way connected to the situation I had been praying about. I was confused.
What is this? What are you doing, Lord? Do I need to pray for Laneia?
And then a word:
Suddenly I remembered earlier when I had been reading with my daughter, how I kept saying
“you” when the word was “joy,” and I laughed.
You are my joy, God!
I prayed for Laneia, that whatever she was doing in that moment, at a quarter past nine in the evening, that she would be overwhelmed with the presence and the joy of the Spirit. I prayed that also for myself, and I thanked God for breaking His silence. It wasn’t the answer I had been asking for, and I didn’t even really understand the relevance, but I had indescribable peace.
The next day was Sunday. My husband had to work, so my daughter and I went off to church on our own. She chose to sit with a friend, and I chose a fairly isolated spot, a few empty seats on either side of me. The time spent alone with the Lord the night before had been so sweet, and I was happy to indulge in a little solitude within the crowd that morning.
“The pleasure of God is found in the presence of God,” my pastor said during the sermon. How significant those words to me that morning. Later, in the middle of the service, he gave us time to sit quietly listening for the Holy Spirit. The Spirit had finally broken His silence the night before, so I was expectant.
But then I became very anxious, almost panicked. I felt my breath and pulse accelerate.
Lord, quiet my soul so that I might hear You!
My heart and lungs slowed their frantic cadence.
Be still. I am steady. I am constant. Rest.
I am an emotional person and an even more emotional worshipper. I cry at church every single week. I just cannot stand beside fellow believers and sing to the Lord without weeping. But that day, for the first time in years, I didn’t cry. I have learned to embrace my emotions, to use them and then offer them back up to my King. But that morning it was so nice to have all my burdens removed and just rest in the still, steady, constant presence of the God of the Universe. It was a freedom I hadn’t experienced in so long. It was everything I needed.
After the service I looked for Laneia. She was talking to friends, so I briefly interrupted and told her I’d love to speak to her before she left. When she came to find me, she spotted me from a distance, outstretched her arms, and smiling she ran to me.
Our God is delightfully mysterious.
*The next day my family member reached out. All is forgiven. All is well. :)
“May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.” (2 Thessalonians 3:5, ESV)
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” (James 1:2-3, ESV)
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13, ESV)
“So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.” (Matthew 5:23-24, ESV)
Post by Katie Morrison (CG West). Want to connect with us about our blog? Send us an email.