One of the most potent and transforming spiritual practices in my journey has been remembering that God is with me—always with me as a good Father. I get into trouble when I lose touch with this profoundly simple reality.

There’s a verse that helps me remember:

The LORD your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing.”
Zeph 3:17

Let me share how each line helped me remember and practice God’s presence the other morning:

The Lord my God is with me

There’s an echo of something old and bent within me that isn’t completely sure that this is good news for me. At times, my gut image of God is emotionally distorted that is uninviting and even repelling. I often find myself resistant to enter into prayer and, in part, this is due to some part of me that is fearful to be with the God I imagine.

This image of God is nothing more than an idol, and as ugly as some of the idols I read about in the Old Testament. This is not the true and living God revealed to me in Jesus Christ. The God into Whose presence I come is very different from the false God of my distorted perspectives.

How does Zephaniah speak to transform my distorted image of God?

Like a good Father, He is mighty to save [me]

He is not a God Who remains aloof and distant, accusing me or speaking words of disappointment and rejection. He is near. He is present, and present with saving power, to rescue and deliver me from anything that brings me harm.

My false image has separated “mighty” and “to save.” My false image of God is unquestionably mighty, but more mighty to accuse, or mighty to judge, or mighty to assess my worthiness or my performance. But the God revealed to me in the face of Jesus is with me and mighty to save me.

Like a good Father, He will take great delight in me

I keep finding myself believing that His delight is tied to my exhilarating accomplishments and my impressive spiritual performances. When I’m at my best as a weak human father, is this the reason I take delight in my own sons? When they were little and I used to look at them asleep in their beds, were my first thoughts about what they’ve been doing to impress (or to fail to impress) me?

Of course not! I saw them with the eyes of delight simply because they are…and they are dear to me just because they are. At my best, my delight is not conditional. And God is always and unchangingly at His best!

Like a good Father, He will quiet me with His love

There is an incredible tenderness in this phrase for me. I remember quieting one of my sons when they were younger and afraid of the dark. I see myself holding one of my sons and speaking words of comfort over a skinned knee or elbow. What is the noise in me that my God quiets by His loving presence and loving words?

Sometimes it’s the noise of anxiety, insecurity, or fear. His love reminds me that I have far less control over circumstances than I think (and that imagined level of control probably corresponds closely to my level of anxiety!). He reminds me, “You are mine. I am with you. I always will be. You need never be apart from me. In me, there is life.”

Like a good Father, He will rejoice over me with singing

Again, this brings back memories of holding my sons, especially when they were toddlers, and singing spontaneous songs to them. There was one I remember singing to our firstborn with lyrics that went something like this, “Daddy loves Sean. Momma loves Sean. Grandma loves Sean. Grandpa loves Sean,” and so on until he fell asleep in my arms or I had to make a second or third run through the list of names.

I remember how each of my boys wanted me to sing that one again. It was a song of delight—mine and that of the circle of family surrounding my boys. If I sit quietly, might I hear my Father in heaven singing over me, “Daddy loves Alan. Jesus loves Alan. Spirit loves Alan…”?

Which of these lines might you take with you into the next few days? How might such a remembering of God with you bring light, encouragement, energy, hope or whatever else it is that you’re thirsty for these days?

 

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