Craig and I have an ongoing conversation about finding rest.  We don’t do it very well by nature – not that we aren’t lazy at times – but we tend to be pretty driven.  As I have been thinking about God’s call for us to rest, I’ve realized that I’ve had some wrong ideas about it.  I’ve thought that

I cannot rest if I am moving – resting always means stopping what I’m doing 

Rest is dependent upon my circumstances – sometimes I can rest, sometimes I cannot

In the well-known Psalm 23, God says that He brings us to places of rest where we will find “…green pastures.  He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul.”

I’m realizing that while God provides rest for our bodies, times that He carves out for us to refuel and replenish what has been lost through our work, that’s not the end of it.  In fact, the other part of rest is more critical.  He provides refreshment for our souls.

Sometimes this involves time spent with Him in solitude, quiet, away from the crowds.  But God’s presence is just as real in the sometimes chaotic busyness of life.  He is JUST AS ABLE to meet us there and “restore our souls” with His presence.  But oftentimes, it requires that we know something about how He knit us together to experience Him in order to meet with Him in those moments of life.  And we are all very different.

For my husband, studying God’s Word fills his soul.  When He discovers something new about his Lord, he is reminded again of the immensity, the breathtaking power of the God he has surrendered his life to.  Preparing a sermon is not an academic exercise – far from it.  It’s an encounter with the Almighty, who regularly shows up through His Word.  Preaching is really icing on the cake – it’s what Craig gets to do with this gift of experiencing God through His Word that he has been given.  Craig experiences God’s presence through “loving God with his mind”.

Me, on the other hand – I study so that I can teach.  I experience God’s presence when I’m in a conversation and God brings to mind a truth that He uses to bring healing, life, and joy to someone that desperately needs it.  I experience God’s presence through loving others.  I sense His joy and feel Him restoring my soul – even when my body is dead tired.

We know that there is only one “pathway” to God through the person of Jesus Christ.  It’s not about getting to God.  It’s about walking in His Spirit and doing what He has called you to.

Take a look at these different ways that we experience God’s presence and see if one resonates with you. Remember that God promises to “restore your soul” – and that restoration isn’t through a massage or a manicure, a favorite TV show or a fun shopping spree – but through His very presence.

Some Ways We Experience the Presence of God

  1. Loving God through creation
    • Reminded of God’s character through nature
    • Energized by just being outside
    • Often sees aspects of His character illustrated in nature
  2. Loving God with the senses
    • Finds joy in seeing the beauty God puts in the everyday, whether natural or man-made because creativity is a gift from God
    • Energized by creating beauty around her
    • Often focuses on God as being in the details and lavish in creativity
  3. Loving God through traditions and ceremony
    • Senses God’s presence in historical expressions of faith, sees richness of rituals that bring depth to prayer life, worship and time in God’s word
    • Energized by ceremony and feel a communion with God’s people throughout the centuries when she practices traditions
    • Often focuses on the traditions that God has given His people over the centuries to worship Him (building alters, honoring the temple, reciting psalms and sacred scripture, etc)
  4. Loving God by working for the things on God’s heart
    • Senses God’s presence when the world changes in a way that reflects the things that burden God’s heart
    • Energized by exercising faith in stepping out to confront injustice
    • Often focuses on God’s justice, His heart for the poor/lonely/widows/least of these/His call to holiness, etc
  5. Loving God by loving others
    • Senses God’s presence when He uses you to bring healing to someone in pain or need or when you are able to connect with someone on a deeper level
    • Energized by connecting with and serving others, physically, emotionally, spiritually
    • Often focuses on God’s heart for the hurting and His willingness to bind up the brokenhearted
  6. Loving God through adoration and worship
    • Senses God’s presence through individual and community worship (music, reading of scripture, prayer)
    • Energized by worship and lifting up the name and character of God, often seeks solitude
    • Often focuses on the need for passionate followers of Jesus and the need for personal communion with Him, experiencing life as His Beloved
  7. Loving God through seeking to know and understand Him 
    • Senses God’s presence when they come to understand who God is in a new way; understands that you cannot love something that you do not know
    • Energized by study of God’s word and struggling through difficult theological issues
    • Often focuses on God’s desire to be known by us and how He has reached out to us through His Word

(adapted from Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas, 2010.  As in any book, I don’t endorse it all but there are some good pieces in there)