Last year I had the opportunity to spend the night in a Bedouin camp in the Jordanian desert. It was whilst on a tour of Israel. I wasn't sure, first of all, if I wanted to sleep in a sleeping bag in a communal tent but my husband, Gary, pointed out that I might never have the opportunity to do it again. It ended up being the highlight of the trip for me!
However it wasn't because of the ride on the camel (yes I really did it but unfortunately I have no photos to prove it!) No, it was the amazing quiet and stillness. It was almost breathtaking in a way that was totally unexpected. I visited many holy places that week but that is where I experienced the tangible presence of God. So much so that I was sad to leave.
It got me thinking about the busyness and noise in my life. It’s so easy to get caught up in routine and my diary can so easily dictate the pace of my life. Added to the physical busyness of day to day life is the busyness in my mind. There can be so many demands of work, family, relationships, social media, health and so much more that I can end up having constant noise in my head.
It wasn’t as though there was no sound at all in the desert. There were birds singing and animal sounds but they were sounds and not noise. More and more I find that I have to make a choice to be still, a choice to be quiet. For a woman this can be a challenge! I determine to make space and time and then something or someone interrupts. More than that I find it takes more determination and discipline to still my mind. For me practically it means putting down my phone. It means shutting the door on everyone. Mentally it means laying down my agenda. Ceasing to try and work things out. Stopping reasoning and arguments in my head. Silencing the voice of the accuser and his lies.
I am standing in absolute stillness, silent before the one I love, waiting as long as it takes for Him to rescue me. Only God is my Saviour, and He will not fail me. For He alone is my safe place. His wrap-around presence always protects me as my Champion Defender. There’s no risk of failure with God! So why would I let worry paralyze me, even when troubles multiply around me? God’s glory is all around me! His wrap-around presence is all I need, for the Lord is my Saviour, my Hero, and my life-giving Strength.
Psalms 62:5-7 (The Passion Translation)
If I don’t make space for God how can I hear him?
But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.
Luke 5:16 (New Living Translation)
In the natural we often think about the wilderness as being a barren and dry place and if we are having a dry time spiritually we often hear it being referred to as a wilderness season as if we are far from God and can’t hear His voice. I think I have probably said it myself. Many times I’ve heard people say Oh I don’t hear God or God doesn’t speak to me. However, having visited the desert I realised that it’s in that place of stillness and quiet that we can hear Him more clearly. This was clearly the case for Jesus and if He made it His priority how much more should I?
Even our prayer life can be loud, and I don't mean volume wise, but do we let God get a word in edge ways? Have we got such a shopping list of requests that we don’t listen to what is His will and purpose for us is.
“Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper.
1 Kings 19:11-12 (New Living Translation)
Elijah needed to hear the Lord for the next move, he feared for his life as Jezabel had put a death warrant on him. We see from this passage that God didn’t speak through the hurricane, earthquake, thunder or fire. No it was a whisper. A still, small voice. So surely we have to remove ourselves from the noise around us and quieten our souls from the chaos in our minds.
Like Gary pointed out to me when I was undecided about staying the night in the desert - When might you ever have that experience again? Now, I can’t just slip off to the desert when I meet with the Lord so I have to create my own space to draw near to Him. One of the places I do this is at my allotment. Sometimes it’s not at all quiet as it’s near a main road and often emergency response vehicles whizz by with their sirens blasting but somehow the sounds don’t bother me because it’s not a demand on me. It’s a place where I can just go and be. The Lord speaks to me through my surroundings and I can get a better perspective on situations that are affecting my life.
You might say to me Well that's not my experience, as soon as I wake in the morning I have a child to see to/work to go to/an elderly parent to care for. Well I believe if you position yourself to receive from Him and be alone in His presence He will honour you and provide that space for you.
Here’s what I’ve learned through it all: Don’t give up; don’t be impatient; be entwined as one with the Lord. Be brave and courageous, and never lose hope. Yes, keep on waiting - for He will never disappoint you!
Psalms 27:14 (The Passion Translation)
I'm no Hebrew scholar but I understand the word wait in Hebrew is qavah. It has a literal translational and a figurative one. The literal meaning of the word is To bind together like a cord. In the Passion Translation above it uses the word entwined. If you imagine a length of cord or rope it is twisted together to make it strong. So when we wait upon the Lord we are twisting ourselves into Him. Entwining ourselves into Him. And in doing so we are being strengthened.
The figurative definition of the word qavah is To wait, to hope, to expect. So as well as being strengthened when we wait on Him we are also expectant of what He is going to say to us or instruct us in. Often we go to other people to find out what the Lord is saying to us because we don’t trust ourselves to hear Him or believe we can hear Him. He wants to whisper to our hearts. Encourage us. Strengthen us. Direct and lead us.
But those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] will gain new strength and renew their power; they will lift up their wings [and rise up close to God] like eagles [rising toward the sun]; they will run and not become weary, they will walk and not grow tired.
Isaiah 40:31 (Amplified Version)
We live in an instant age. We want fast internet connection. We want microwaved ready meals to save us time. We eat standing up and in a hurry. We come under pressure to meet deadlines and fulfill promises. We give commands to Alexa and expect instant answers. We’ve become impatient and forgotten the principal of waiting. It’s no wonder we are stressed and exhausted! Jesus took time to be with the Father. He knew He couldn't operate (live) without being entwined with Him.
One of the most stunningly beautiful experiences of my life was watching the sunrise in the desert. It is a memory I will always treasure but I don’t want it just to be a nice memory. I stood in the place where Jesus would have had the same experience but it wasn’t the sunrise that affected me. It was His presence.
Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.
James 4:8a (English Standard Version)
Make a choice with me today to draw near to Him in the secret place and to receive from Him
Yes, keep on waiting—for he will never disappoint you!
Psalms 27:14 (The Passion Translation)