Three years ago, my husband and I enjoyed our favorite vacation to date in Turks and Caicos. It truly was the tropical paradise that we had longed for. We scuba-dived on the most amazing coral reef, ate delicious food, and read books all day. Our toughest decision was whether to read by the pool or on the beach. The flora and the fauna were spectacular and the island experiences and natives were just amazing!
My husband jokes, though, that it’s almost not worth taking me on vacation because of what I call “Post-Party Depression”. It starts the day BEFORE we leave – a real treat for my man – as I begin mourning the end of the vacation and the return to our responsibilities. The fact of the matter is that I want to LIVE on vacation – 24/7, every day. My husband has a different view. He believes that it’s the routine and the challenges of our responsibilities that make vacation so much sweeter. I have to admit he’s right – but it doesn’t make me any happier as I pack my bathing suit back into the suitcase!
Just recently as I was worshiping the Lord and amazed by his Presence, I had the realization that I sometimes treat His presence like Turks and Caicos. I love to visit the perfect beauty of His presence and marvel at the glory. However, I am not called to be a tourist in God’s presence – I am called to be a native. I am called to LIVE there, to make my 24/7, every day experience one of being aware of God’s presence in me and with me.
I became challenged to ask myself, “If God’s presence is so lovely and perfect and available, why would I merely visit? Why would I be content to take snapshots rather than remain in the freshness of the ‘Now’ experience of God’s goodness?” It’s so easy to be content to visit with God occasionally when we could be enjoying His mercy and mind-blowing grace every day.
And while “Post-Party Depression” may not be a prudent way to end a vacation, it is a benefit in our relationship with God when it alerts us to the fact that we have wandered away from regular fellowship with the Lord. That feeling is our early warning system that we are leaving the beauty and rest of his presence and returning to the life where we struggle and toil in our own strength. God never intended for us to live life separated from the peace and confidence that come from being empowered by His grace.
Rest doesn’t come naturally for mankind -not since the Garden. So God, in His presence, renews our mind to how to rest in Him and work out of grace, not out of neediness and grasping. There is a big difference between work and toil, and between ‘becoming’ and striving!
When Adam and Eve were evicted from the Garden of Eden, they were told that the curse they had entered into now meant toil for them. Before the curse, they worked the ground and it yielded fruit and harvest willingly. After the curse, the world’s system worked against them and not for them. When we’re out of step with God, we become subject to that system again. Even though we have been delivered from the curse if we’re in Christ, when we step away from fellowship with the Lord, we won’t know how to execute the plan that makes us fruitful and we will unwittingly revert back to what comes naturally to us – striving.
So the next time you sense yourself striving, go back to Paradise – not a tropical paradise with palm trees and swimming pools (although those things are lovely!). Return to the real Paradise – the one that never fades or becomes mundane. Return to your first love and the rest He offers. Return to worship and prayer. Cast your cares on the One who is strong enough to carry the load. Throw off your heavy burdens and feel the warmth of His care for you refreshing your soul. This is a Paradise you never have to pack up to leave!
Have you ever experienced the rest that comes in the Lord’s presence? If you haven’t or if it’s been a while, then you can start by following these 4 simple steps:
- Praise: Praise God for His attributes. See the link below if you need help pondering on His attributes. The list is an abbreviated one, but it will get you started. All about God: Attributes of God. When we praise God, He shows up and His presence fills our atmosphere. The Word of God says that in His presence there is freedom. Everything that keeps us bound comes to light and loses its footing in God’s presence.
2 Corinthians 3:17Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
- Repentance: Clean out the closets of the junk. Bring out the skeletons and the trash and dump them! Repentance is admitting your faults to God. He knows them anyway. We’re the ones who need to become aware of our need for grace and mercy and give all of our failures and sins to Him. We need to own our junk and really allow godly sorrow for our sin to bring a heart change. God is faithful and just to forgive us of all our sin so don’t hide. Bring it all out into the light.
1 John 1:8-9
8 If we claim, “We don’t have any sin,” we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from everything we’ve done wrong.
- Thanksgiving: This is the area where most of us fall down. We become so engrossed in what is NOT right in our lives that our thanksgiving for all that we have, all that God has done for us, and all that we will inherit in Christ fades away. Like a muscle, thanksgiving needs to be worked out daily. At first, being thankful may feel awkward and you may peter out after a few sentences. But the more you meditate on all that you have to be thankful for, you will find this section being the easiest part of this list!
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
- Requests: We usually are very in touch with what we want God to do in our lives, so I don’t need to say much here. However, I will add one thought: God may choose to answer your prayer in a way that is different in appearance and in timing than how you are framing it. Delay is not denial and denial is not the end of the world as you know it. God works all things for our good and His plan can be trusted.