Daily Devotional (Presence not Presents)
This Christmas season, I have had a stirring thought resounding continually within my head. In a culture that convinces all of us that we need more stuff, God is inviting us into His Presence. Oh, most of us can’t hear the call, because we’re too concerned with the presents. You see, if we’re not concerned with what we’re getting, we’re concerned with what we’re giving. We worry about what others will think if we give the wrong thing. We’re worried that perhaps we’ve been a bit too naughty this year and we won’t get anything. All the while, God is whispering to each and every one of us- “Presence not Presents.”
Maybe it took me getting to this point in life for me to hear the call. The place where I’ve been lately has felt very lonely. Which seems odd because everywhere I turn, I am surrounded by others. I never knew that it could be possible to feel so alone when surrounded by so many. But it’s the truth. So often, I feel removed even from myself- a watcher of my own life playing out on the screen before me. But that perception has allowed much time to think about what’s important. And it’s allowed me to hear the call of our God into His Presence.
I accepted the call not knowing where it might take me. I didn’t know if everything that seemed upside down to me would turn around or not, but I had nothing to lose.... or so I thought. You see, there is a process that God uses in each believer’s life that brings us intimately closer into His Presence. And that process is brokenness. Most of us shy away from any sort of pain, so we really have to be in a desperate place to be willing to walk into an unfamiliar process. But for those willing to endure hardship, there exists a beautiful pain that will bring us closer to God.
There is a sweetness in brokenness. Being invited there seems like a deceptive invitation. In fact, if we are willing, God will take everyone of us into the sweet valley of brokenness. So often in life, I have heard many ask Christians why so much bad continues to exist if our God is so good. Is this not the same complaint that the Jews so often had? Is it not the same complaint that a spoiled Western culture continually throws against a loving and eternally patient God? It surely is. And in my quest to seek the Lord in every area of my life, I have invited Him into every area of my life.
At first, I simply threw out a prayer which I thought sounded cool. I prayed, “Father, do what You need to do to me so that You can do whatever You want to do through me.” It sounded harmless enough. And it sounded like the right thing to do from a religious perspective. Hey, it sounded pious. But that is not a prayer to take lightly, and our God takes every word uttered from our mouths very seriously. Did I think that God was joking when He said for us to let our ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and our ‘no’ be ‘no’? To be honest, I didn’t even think about it. I simply said it. And my heart was in it, so I repeated it. Over and over again for years, I told God to have His way with me.
And through this process, do you know what God has invited me into? Brokenness. Absolute brokenness. We all have treasures that we secretly hold on to. I’ve had many. My reputation. My pride. My lust for things. My ability to provide. Brokenness brings you to a point where everything you’ve ever valued no longer seems so appealing. Brokenness strips you bare. Should we expect anything else? I don’t know why, but I did. I expected God to see my earnest desire to be used by Him and take me to the mountaintop. But looking back, God never even took His Son to the mountaintop, He kept Him down in the valleys, amongst a bunch of people that were broken and could use some light... a little hope, if you will.
In fact, other than Jesus occasionally trekking up to the mountain to get a little alone time, the only one who took Jesus to the top of the world was Satan. Funny how we all strive to reach the pinnacle of our existence only to find out that our only company there is either Satan or God. If we get there without some work, we can probably expect the old deceiver to be our only company. A wise man once told me that all success does is give you longer driveways. Worldly success tends to separate us from others. Godly success tends to keep us in the midst of the regulars.
I recently came across a quote from a preacher named Vance Havner. Regarding brokenness, he puts it quite well.
“God uses broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume. It is Peter, weeping bitterly, who returns to greater power than ever.”
You see, hardened soil is not fit for planting seed. And without seed, there can be no fruit. If we want to live for something bigger than ourselves, we must be willing to be broken. And when we’re broken, it allows for more of God to penetrate into the previously hardened areas of our lives. The worst thing that one can have and no one can take away in this world is a hardened heart. Therefore, the opposite must hold true. Perhaps the best thing that one can possess is a broken heart. For the broken heart is willing to accept the presence of God. The broken heart realizes that it has nothing to offer, it simply receives.
Ironically, when we resolve ourselves to go alone into the Presence of God, He will place us in the presence of others. He will use us to encourage others that are also going through hardships. And in the midst of our own struggles, we will be salt and light before a world that needs hope. Our lives will be testimonies of a loving God that gives beauty for ashes and hope in the midst of despair. And even though we feel as if we have nothing to give, God will begin to give through us. It may not be what we want to give, but it will be just what others need, for it will be God Himself.
And so, I leave you with this thought, this invitation into the Divine. In the midst of such chaos and hectic living, think Presence not Presents. It will take you into places you never dreamed of going. And even though your flesh will find it painful, your spirit will be thankful. It is wonderful because you can be assured that you will not go it alone. For His Presence never leaves nor forsakes us. Walk worthy my friends and go with God.