Welcome to Part 2 of Debby Bellingham's spiritual practice series. If you missed my introduction to her on Monday, find it here.
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In Daniel 1, in the description of the siege and capture of Jerusalem by Babylon's King Nebuchadnezzar, we see three different descriptions of God's acts:
- The Lord lets Jerusalem be besieged (vs. 1-2)
- God allows favor, honor and compassion to fall on Daniel (vs. 9-16)
- God gives knowledge, skill, and insight to Daniel (v. 17)
The words let, allowed, and gave are all the same Hebrew word: Permitted.
Seemingly bad, good or neutral, the life you’ve been given to live, with its trials, its joys and its banality is the very life God has permitted you and it is in this life where you will find him. Not in some idyllic super spiritual environment, without interruption or time constraints...that’s the life of a monk, not your life!
As we mentioned earlier, it is easy to find God when good things enter our life. God shouts at us from the coo of a baby, from the well-done of a job promotion, from the companionship of friends. But when the circumstances of our life are discomforting or painful, God seems absent, not near at all. Maybe we fear weʼve been abandoned. But consider with me, the following quote from the book, The Unselfishness of God, by Hannah Whitall Smith. It has become one of my favorites.
"It is no matter who starts our trial, whether man, or devil or even our own foolish selves, if God permits it to reach us, He has by this permission made the trial His own, and will turn it for us into a chariot of love which will carry our souls to a place of blessing that we could not have reached in any other way.”
When God permits any trial to enter your life, whatever its source...whether it comes from outside yourself, such as wrong done to you by another person, employer, government; or if it enters your life as a result of the enemy of God attacking you through things like disease or unexplainable obstacles; or if you are suffering because of your own bad choices or poor personal decisions; whatever the source of your trial, if God permits it, God commits to making it his own and will turn it into the means by which you can be carried to the very heart of God.
God is always present and active in your life, in every situation, every relationship, every mundane duty done - even if your senses, intellect, feelings tell you otherwise. He is hidden in your every moment; and when you use the eyes of faith this moment, this NOW can be the very place where you and God meet.
This is the passive response of accepting Godʼs love I mentioned earlier: “To lovingly accept all that God sends you at each moment of the day; trusting Godʼs ability to use the contents of this very moment to shape you into holiness.” As I said, simple, but not easy.
It is the eyes of faith that find Jesus hidden in the eternal now. How do we gain eyes of faith?
1. Believe. God is eager to love you and meet you in this present moment, this present situation. This knowledge may begin in your head, not your heart. That’s a good start. Find small ways to remind yourself of this truth. Let it be the screensaver on your computer or leave a post-it note on your bathroom mirror. Use your child’s questions as a reminder to ask God, “Where are you hiding now? Show me yourself.”
2. Ask. The eyes of faith cannot be earned; they are the gift of God through the Holy Spirit. Ask God to show you himself in the common events of your life, he is eager to answer this prayer.
3. Practice. Gratefulness opens the eyes of faith. Begin by thanking God for the ways it is obvious his love is reaching you. Make it your habit to thank God for all the pleasures of life, large and small. Gratitude begets gratitude. Your appreciation of Godʼs goodness toward you will connect you to him in a profound way. Through this connection you will know him better and it will increase your ability to see him in every aspect of your life, even in the difficulties that come your way. Run an experiment of thanking God for the little irritations that cross your path. This habit can ready you for finding God in the big challenges that life that will inevitably come your way.
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Debby Bellingham, her husband Jack, and Molly the pug make their home in San Francisco, CA. She is a spiritual director, retreat leader, author, licensed psychotherapist and ordained clergy. She blogs at www.thementoredlife.com and her study guide and devotional The Mentored Life are available in hard copy or a kindle edition on Amazon. She enjoys (enjoys?) running, spending time with her grandkids and the adventure of doing home exchanges. She's currently living in NY State for a year and before that two years in Paris.