When you pray, how do you imagine God?
Someone asked me this question recently. I hadn't thought about that much, so it was interesting to try to explain it to someone else. My picture of God is hard to describe and it blends a few different images together, but it makes sense to me...much like a dream.
When I pray, I picture the sky. In the middle of the sky, I see the soft lines of a face.
I connect to the relational aspect of my faith in God when I imagine his face. In the sky, I see the vastness and power of our God. I see different colors in the sky, depending on where my heart is and what I'm praying about.
Sometimes I see a night sky with stars and dark blue and purple hues. Other times, I see a sunset with vibrant pink, orange, and yellow light. Another image I've seen is a sky covered with fresh green colors, not unlike moss covering tree bark. Rain falls as I see God's heart, mourning with me in the midst of suffering.
I still don't understand it all. I'm just beginning to unpack what this means, but it's cool to finally start noticing the pictures God has given me.
All of us experience God in different ways, and there's no right or wrong way to see God. But maybe you're like me, and you've never really thought about what it is to imagine God. When you pray, how do you imagine God?
In "Rejoice," I introduced the idea of choosing joy in the midst of suffering. Today, I want to take the next step and encourage those of us who are choosing to rejoice.
Romans 5:3 states, "...We glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope."
I don't know about you, but 2020 left me craving for hope (shoutout to For King & Country and their song, "Hope Is What We Crave"). I find this verse particularly encouraging because of its promise of hope.
Many other translations replace "glory" with "rejoice." When we rejoice in our suffering, we learn perseverance. As we practice it, perseverance builds character. And finally, the formation of our character gives us real hope.
As we walk into 2021, we can hope. But we must learn to rejoice in the suffering before we can truly experience hope. One step at a time. Today, I will rejoice. I will persevere. I will strengthen my character. And finally, I will hope.
"Rejoice" is my word of the year for 2021. God gently placed this idea on my heart at the beginning of the year. This year, I am going to make it my goal to find joy in the midst of suffering.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, "Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
In a recent conversation with one of my mentors, we talked about the nature of verse 16. She asked, "How does 'rejoice always' feel to you? Does it feel like a command or a suggestion?" After some thought and discussion, we came to the conclusion that God intended this verse as a command. That brought up the question, "But what if I'm not rejoicing right now?"
This is a difficult question to answer. My natural response is to feel guilty for not following one of God's commands. Yet God does not respond in the way a human would. Yes, it is a command—but he realizes how difficult it is, and he accepts us wherever we are. God wants us to come to him even when we aren't rejoicing. We don't have to feel guilty for our frustration or confusion or doubt or whatever we feel instead of joy. He wants us to bring all of ourselves to him, all the time. God wants to take the burdens we're carrying and give us strength to continue on the journey. It's okay if you're not rejoicing right now—and God wants us to bring that to him. He can only truly help us when we lay our burdens at his feet and ask him for help.
Journey with me. Let's practice choosing joy in the midst of suffering. And when it's hard, when we feel like we can't take another step, let's have the courage to bring it to God. He'd love to join our journey towards joy. Join me. Let's rejoice in 2021.
I've been to Downtown Disney three times since I started college...but I've never made it farther than the parking lot. (The first two times, it was too crowded. Today, I had a zoom meeting with my spiritual director/mentor while my friends were there...but it was worth it!)
My spiritual director mentioned the fact that it's interesting that Disneyland is called "the happiest place on earth." Although that's a good advertising motto, it just simply isn't true. I have a lot of happy memories from visiting Disneyland as a kid, but I remember thinking that it's never been the happiest place on earth for me. I mentioned this fact to my family when I was about 8 years old. They responded, "If it isn't Disneyland, then where is your happiest place on earth?" Home. My favorite place to be in the whole world was home. As I was reminded of this today, I noticed that my answer has changed. My home is split between two places now (Biola and my actual house). So that got me thinking—where is my happiest place on earth now?
Almost immediately, the answer came to me. My happiest place on earth is right here, in the arms of my Heavenly Father, no matter where my physical body is. In this way, anywhere I am can be the happiest place on earth.
Where is your happiest place on earth?