‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight’ Proverbs 3v5-6
‘You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast because he trusts in You’ Isaiah 26v3
The battle is always over our hearts and minds because what happens there, in the inner person, determines what comes out of us. As Jesus said ‘A tree is recognised by its fruit’ (Luke 6v44) – a bad tree cannot produce good fruit and a good tree can’t help it. These wise words from the Old Testament seem to say that in order to have a steadfast mind and a whole heart I must allow faith and trust to do their work in me – total trust in a faithful and loving God, Who understands the things I don’t and is always in control.
But I have to admit there are those moments when I stop and relax and the negative emotions rise up: I am suddenly caught off guard by a terrible emptiness – like a dread that’s gone to sleep or a vacuum containing a question mark. I realise I’m being held back from complete trust by (an understandable!) fear of disappointment and from utter peace by nagging anxieties over what the uncertain future may hold. This is the battle within… there in all of us and exacerbated in me by my son’s diagnosis. I do know that God is good and well able to heal and save, but I can’t presume upon Him and what He may require: I can’t be rock-solid certain about what will happen. I can hope for the best – but there is still a crevice where fear can lodge in my belly.
I am glad then that David acknowledges, right in the middle of his prayer of contrition and brokenness in Psalm 51, that ‘You desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place’. He had tried to hide his sin, but that is never the way to find covering; God requires us to be honest so that love rather than shame can cover us (1Peter 4v8) – it is only as we walk in the light that Jesus’ blood can make us clean (1 John 1v7). I just have to admit it – I am weak and human and I struggle to trust at all times; I am just like Peter looking at the waves and beginning to sink. ‘Why did you doubt?’ “Because I am human, Lord – save me!” I am still on a journey to wholehearted trust and perfect peace.
The inner place is the seat of all spirituality, the focus of all spiritual discipline. A week or so ago I ‘saw’ this inner place inside myself; it was a cell. It looked like a prison cell, with shiny, steel walls and floor, a barred window, the door standing open – sterile and barren, hard and unyielding – and empty. At least it was clean! I was disconcerted: what did this mean? Is this the ‘vacuum with the question mark’ in the secret chamber of my heart? Yet the door was open and outside everything looked totally different – an abundance of colourful flowers and plants growing up the walls forming a really beautiful garden around this small room!
The fruitful view that others could see did not tally with the sterility of the inside, the emptiness of my emotions. How could this be? Jesus said we can only bear the fruit that is in our DNA, so where did all this come from? Well… I suppose I have been throwing my seed out of that window for a long time! Just like Jack and the Beanstalk, it looks as if something surprising has grown up – a plant that reaches to heaven!
But meanwhile back in the secret cell, I know I need another touch of life, another spring-time… and that’s where Jesus comes in! None of this was me anyway – the deposit in my life only ever came from Him. So Jesus then showed me – YES! He wants to come in – that He is the decorator and furnisher, and my prison cell can be a monk’s cell, a poustinia in a garden, where I can know His comfort and presence in the secret place of my heart. St Teresa of Avila had an interior castle, but I am happy to settle for one room if I can meet Him there! 🙂
This is a particular encouragement at a time when much is changing around me but I am still aware of the anxieties that rise up within. It’s not that Jesus hasn’t been with me all this time, but this inner image does remind me what the answer is; although it is a daily journey of faith to ‘walk with the Lord’, there are also specific seasons for withdrawing ‘to your inner room, closing the door and praying to the Father who is in secret’ (Matthew 6v6).
Dale Gentry used to say, the springboard to the public place is in the secret place – but that is not why I want to focus there. I focus there because ‘the Father who sees in secret will reward you’ and He is the source of my life, my spring of Living Water, the only way I can get through each day. Intimacy is the only way to develop that trust that leads to peace, that dependence that allows me to ignore my own understanding and just acknowledge that He is Lord. Then, as the Proverbs quote says, He can ‘make my paths straight’ for me – which is how and why the beautiful garden grew in the first place!
Never be fooled by the outside: ‘God looks at the heart’ (1 Samuel 16v7). The thing I love is, He doesn’t judge us but wants to help us – to give our hearts more fully, to come to that place of trust as we get to know what He is really like. That’s why He is always showing us the truth about ourselves and offering constant renewal. There He stands at the door, holding a paintbrush and some yellow paint and delivering a sofa, rug and curtains 😉
Getting on for 14 years ago I was sitting in the front of a meeting when the preacher stopped in the middle of his flow to speak over me. He didn’t know that I had been crying out to God that He had to speak to me that night! I was very encouraged that the Lord had heard my prayer and answered in an unmistakeable way! But the words he spoke still echo down the years and although they have provoked a lot of changes I know I have not yet seen their fulfilment:
‘You can come under the spirit of revival. You have been seeking God in that quiet place – now come out into the public place – into the public place, carrying the spirit of revival‘
We can only give birth to what we are carrying: I cannot carry a ‘spirit of revival’ anywhere unless I am revived myself! It has been a long process over those 14 years… and who knew the spirit of revival looked like this – all we are living through and experiencing and our testimony of the Living God right in the middle of it?! But if our story is going into the public domain, even beyond my ‘No Search Engines’ blog, perhaps even this coming weekend as a feature in The Mail on Sunday… Jesus, You had better come in and do Your face-lift on my cell and revive my innermost being! Please line up the inside and the outside and demonstrate Your glory in the fruit that is borne!
Because it seems to me, ‘this is that’.