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“Delight yourself in the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
– Psalm 37:4
Someone once told me that I could determine the primary focus of my life by where my thoughts went each night as I lay in bed, drifting off to sleep. I tried this little experiment when I was first trying to cultivate deeper intimacy with Christ. I was spending focused time with Him each day. Surely, I reasoned, the primary focus of my life is my relationship with God. But when I began to pay attention to what island of thought my mind drifted away to each night, I was startled to realize that very seldom did I dwell on God. Usually, I started obsessing over relationships – thinking about different guys in my life, wondering if any of them could be “the one” for me, and trying to determine what they thought of me. Sometimes I thought about my future, worrying about where to go or what to do next with my life. Often I evaluated my appearance, personality, and social abilities, brainstorming ways I could change so that everyone would like me more. And other times I tossed and turned as I made mental checklists of all my undone tasks for work or school.
I realized that in spite of the fact that I had developed a daily relationship with Christ, He was not the one who consumed my heart and mind every moment of the day.
If a husband and wife created a beautiful haven of romance by cleaning and polishing their bedroom, setting the mood with flowers and candles, and jealously guarding their privacy, but they never actually entered the sanctuary to spend time together, it would be a waste of time and effort. The same is true with our own inner sanctuary – it has been created so that we might truly delight in our Prince, experiencing unhindered, tender intimacy with Him.
When I began to pursue a lifestyle of delighting in the Lord, I wasn’t entirely sure how to accomplish this in a practical way. It was so easy to delight in Him during my time of prayer, Bible study, and journaling, but throughout the rest of my day it was all too easy to become distracted and self-focused. I didn’t see many examples of people who joyfully lived each moment for Him alone. It was around that time that I met Eric’s sister, Krissy. It didn’t take me long to notice that her joyful glow and amazing servant’s heart flowed directly from her intimate, passionate, moment-to-moment relationship with Jesus Christ. When she sang during worship services, her eyes were closed and a huge, childlike smile of delight creased her entire face. She did not see the other worshipers, she did not notice the band, and she was unaware of her surroundings. She saw only Him. When she prayed, she poured out her heart to her Lord with trembling and tears and passion, totally unconscious of anyone else. When she spoke of her Prince, her eyes glowed with tender adoration and unashamed love. Her fervent joy seemed consistent every single hour of the day. After spending more time observing her, I began to notice that her communication with God was not merely limited to her morning quiet times; rather she interacted with Him all day long, no matter what she was doing.
Faithfully and gently, God’s Spirit began to show me how to walk through the day with Him rather than just walking through the day representing Him. I learned to inwardly talk to Him throughout the day – as I drove to work, as I interacted with the world around me, and as I drifted off to sleep at night. And I learned to inwardly listen to His soft voice, tuning my heart to hear Him throughout the day. From that point on, my daily adventure began. I was amazed at how exciting every day could be, even if I was simply going about a monotonous routine. When I learned how to continually communicate with my Prince, I truly learned how to live. I finally understood where true confidence flows from – the incredible delight of knowing that the most heroic, gallant, powerful Lord who ever existed walks lovingly beside me every moment of the day.
PRACTICAL STEPS FOR DELIGHTING IN OUR PRINCE
Here are some soul-searching questions to ask yourself:
Am I wholeheartedly aware, on a moment-by-moment basis, of the continual presence of my Prince?
Am I able to speak to Him and listen to His voice no matter where I am or what I am doing?
Getting to the place of delighting in Him throughout the day takes focused effort. We live in a culture that specializes in creating one distraction after another for our minds and hearts. There are a few significant decisions I personally made that helped me create a new approach to daily living. I would like to share them with you, in the hopes that they will be a benefit to you as well:
Developing a Quiet Mind
When her ministry was at its peak, Amy Carmichael wrote about the importance of serving her Prince with a quiet mind: “Having a quiet mind is not a question of choice – if we are to go on at all, we must have a quiet mind. All too many Christians break down, not because of their circumstances, but because of a weary, fretting spirit too rushed to dwell in peace.”
When I first read this statement, I found myself wondering how to maintain a quiet mind in today’s world. From the time we are five years old and watching Sesame Street, our society constantly throws nonstop action at us, training our mind to never be still. From quick-paced television commercials to online social networking, our minds are used to moving at a breakneck tempo. The Christian world all too often follows suit. There are short books with one-paragraph devotionals and easy, one-minute Bible readings created especially for all the busy Christians on the go. When a group of Christians gathers, fifteen minutes is usually considered a long time to spend in prayer or worship, and frequently we fidget and restlessly check our watches the whole time.
I grew up allowing my mind to wander rapidly from one random thing to the next. My thoughts were easily distracted and hardly ever peacefully still, even during times of prayer, Bible study, or journaling. But when I began to pursue a daily lifestyle of continual communication with my Prince, I knew that something had to change. I needed to learn how to discipline my mind to focus on Him, no matter where I was or what I was doing. I needed to keep my thoughts still enough to hear His gentle voice. While drifting off to sleep at night, instead of just letting my thoughts wander aimlessly, I began to focus my mind on my Christ – either through meditating on a Scripture I had memorized or just talking to Him about my day. After a couple of weeks of making a concerted effort to dwell on Him at night, I was surprised to notice that soon it started coming naturally. (An amazing bonus of this habit was that my sleeping became much more peaceful as a result of filling my mind with Truth just before drifting off into dreamland.)
My next step was to discipline my thoughts in the mornings, just after I woke up. Instead of immediately making a mental checklist for the day or instantly turning on my CD player while I got dressed, I decided to try starting out my day by worshiping my Prince. This didn’t mean a twenty-minute singing session – usually it just meant taking a few moments when I first awoke to kneel by my bed, focus on Him, and thank Him for His incredible love and faithfulness to me. When my Prince became the first thing my mind dwelled on in the morning and the last thing I thought about before falling asleep, it was far easier to continue to focus on Him and communicate with Him throughout my day. Eventually I was able to discipline my mind to dwell on Him on a more continuous basis – while driving in my car, interacting with people, or doing my work. Often, my conversations with Him were not elaborate prayers, just little statements of my love for Him or short prayers for His guidance in certain situations.
The more I learned to quiet my mind and focus my thoughts on Christ, the more effectively I could deal with anything that was thrown at me throughout my day. As a result, I began to live a much more peaceful existence. When crisis or discouragement hit me, instead of being thrown completely off course with panicked thoughts racing through my mind, I became aware of my Prince’s calm, steadying arms around me. When thoughts of my Prince were at the forefront of my mind, I was constantly reminded that He held the pen of my life, that He was scripting each chapter, and that He would never leave me. Eric has a saying that goes, “It is only when the waters are perfectly still that they can reflect the glories of the heavens.” It is the same with us. Only when our minds and hearts are restfully focused on our Prince can we become reflections of His strong, steady, and unshakable peace.
Prayerfully consider some practical ways that you can train yourself to have a quiet mind on a continual basis. Take notice of where your thoughts go when you are alone during the day or when you are lying in bed at night. These are excellent moments to begin developing different mental habits. Instead of letting your mind wander randomly, make a concerted effort to focus on your Prince during those times, whether it is by meditating on a Scripture, singing a worship song, or just telling Him about what you are going through. As you face challenges throughout your day, remember to be aware of His presence at all times. Ask Him to assist you in conversations, guide you in decisions, and help you reflect His lily-white likeness no matter what you are doing. As you learn to speak with Him continually and open your heart to listen to His voice at all times, you will be amazed at how completely you will begin to delight in your Prince all day long. For “in [His] presence is fullness of joy” (Psalm 16:11).
Gaining an Undivided Heart
Jeremiah 29:13 says, “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” In Authentic Beauty, I talk about the importance of kicking out “other lovers” in our lives and cleaning our inner sanctuary. It is also crucial that we seek our God with a completely undivided, undistracted heart. If we were to be honest, many of us would have to admit that we aren’t really searching for Him with all our hearts. We are too busy browsing Facebook, surfing the Internet, texting, watching reality TV, and downloading movies. Worldly entertainment can easily become an addiction that we can’t live without. Life would seem empty and bleak if we didn’t own a TV. Weekends would be boring and depressing if we didn’t frequent the local theater to catch the latest Hollywood flick. Even though we supposedly have everything we could ever want or need in Christ alone, we still look to these other means for the peace, joy, excitement, and refreshment that He Himself desires to give us. All we have is the counterfeit version of peace and joy, because we aren’t willing to let Him give us the real thing.
A truly set-apart woman hates the things that God hates and loves the things that God loves, and she reflects this attitude in every dimension of her daily life. Does God stand up and cheer over American Idol? Does He smile with delight over the newest Twilight movie? Does He get excited about the latest Coldplay album?
Or does He grieve over our distracted, wandering, divided hearts?
If our Lord does not take delight in the things that charm and ravish the world, neither should we. (And if you believe that God actually applauds the distorted messages of pop culture, you need to become better acquainted with the God of the Bible.)
Other Christian girls may watch the same movies, listen to the same music, wear the same clothes, and have all the same pop culture addictions as the rest of the world, with just slightly higher morals tacked on. But God has called us to a higher standard – the very standard of Christ. And I believe it’s time we become worthy of the calling we have received.
Take some time to prayerfully consider whether you are addicted to worldly entertainment and pop culture activities. Facebook in itself might not be wrong, but if it is taking more of your time and focus than Jesus Christ, that means it has an unhealthy position in your life. Texting with your friends might not be a sinful activity, but if it’s a constant distraction from your ability to tune your heart, mind, and spiritual ears to your Prince, it has a sinful hold over you. Write down any activity or worldly addiction that God’s Spirit brings to your mind. And then, by His grace, repent, turn, and walk in the opposite direction. Remember, no sacrifice is too great for the One who gave everything for you.
(For more on this principle, see my book Set-Apart Femininity.)
Listening to Words of Life
One of the best investments I’ve ever made is purchasing an audio Bible and putting it on my MP3 player. Anytime I am doing a mindless activity, such as getting ready in the morning, running errands, or waiting for an appointment, I pull out my iPod, put on my headphones, and listen to the spoken Word of God. Flooding my mind and heart with Truth instead of meaningless music or idle radio chatter has had a tremendous impact on my relationship with Jesus Christ. It keeps my mind and heart focused on Him all throughout the day. And whenever I’m hit with temptation, fear, or doubt I can instantly call to mind His words of life and stand firm in His Truth. There are many audio Bibles on the market, and some you can even download for free. I prefer the King James or New King James versions for their accuracy, and I especially like the dramatized New King James version called The Word of Promise. At first it might take some discipline to turn off your music or radio and instead turn on the Word of God; but after you develop this habit in your life, you’ll recognize how much it helps you delight in your Prince all day long, and you will begin to crave more time spent listening to Truth.*
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