Sunlit StepsA couple of weeks ago, God put on my heart that I should pray for help to enjoy my husband more. That day, Paul was taking the afternoon off for us to attend our youngest son’s state swim meet together. In preparation for the ride, I gathered my laptop and paperwork and prioritized my list of things to do. I tend to seize every unclaimed minute to tackle another task.

God did a surprising thing. He answered my prayer by freeing me to be present in the moments Paul and I had together, helping me again to see my husband as someone I wanted to be enjoyed by as well as to enjoy. I was pleased and convicted when Paul, not knowing about my prayer, said toward the end of the day, “You can be a lot of fun!” I’m now committed to including this request in my prayers regularly and to being more open to divine interruptions in my plans.

With twenty-five years of marriage under our belts, an abundant life with our four dear sons, not to mention the multitude of personal, marital and parenting growing pains we’ve come through, it became easy to settle into a routine of just getting things done. But settling in this way is to accept less than what we want. It’s less than what God wants for us, too. It’s as if Paul and I had relegated to second priority the enjoyment of each other that was so thrilling at the threshold of our relationship.

As I reflected on our renewed commitment to enjoy each other, I was reminded of the best-known statement of the Westminster Shorter Catechism.[1] Based upon Scripture, the Catechism says that “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”[2] Now for anyone who reads the Bible, identifying ways we might glorify God isn’t so hard. We’re called to love him, praise him, obey him, acknowledge him, fear him, tell others about him, worship him, honor him, trust him, and live for him.[3]

How to enjoy God, though, is a little harder to grasp. Christians anticipate enjoying God in heaven, where we will see his glory in all its fullness,[4] but we can enjoy him now, too. Through our relationships with other people, God gives us a picture of how to enjoy him now. To deeply enjoy another person, we must know them well and be at ease with them. We must be willing to let down our guard and to respond with respect and love when they let down theirs. We must expend time and energy to enjoy them and to be enjoyable ourselves. The greatest enjoyment is reciprocal.

In order to enjoy God, we need to know him:  not just know about him, but personally know his character and his heart primarily through ongoing study of his Word and revelation by the Holy Spirit.[5] On the basis of that knowledge, we’re able to enjoy God much in the same way that we enjoy the closest of friends. Similarly, in order to enjoy God to the fullest, we must actually be present with him.

Because of Christ’s sacrifice, we now are able to enjoy God by coming into his very presence. When Jesus died and yielded up his spirit, the temple veil that separated people from God’s presence was torn,[6] opening the way for those who accept his gift of salvation to come before God. The problem for us often is that we hold ourselves back from God’s presence with a veil of our own making. We wrench ourselves “loose from that ‘blissful center’ which is our right and proper dwelling place,”[7] thereby perpetuating the restlessness in our souls[8] that’s inevitable in the life lived apart from God.[9]

Since God is present everywhere,[10] we can enjoy him throughout our days, during Bible reading and prayer, in our interactions with others, in worship, in service, at work, and in those wonderful times when we just stop all activity to think about him and listen for him. To make enjoyment of God a habit, though, we need to practice the continual consciousness of God’s presence,[11] looking for him in the ordinary and the supernatural.

Brother Lawrence, a seventeenth century lay monk, had a gift for expressing this kind of intimacy with God. He says that there is no life sweeter or more delightful than one characterized by “a continual conversation with God,” emphasizing that in order even to understand this way of living we must practice it. Brother Lawrence also compels us to practice this continual conversation with God not  because of the pleasure it will bring but because of our love for God and God’s desire to be in relationship with us.[12]

The idea that God desires to be in relationship with us amazes me. I hope you’ll join me in praying for God’s help to enjoy this divine relationship more by continually practicing the consciousness of his presence. In so doing, our days can be marked by conversation with our God and will overflow with delight in him.

Psalm 68:3-4 (MSG)

When the righteous see God in action
    they’ll laugh, they’ll sing,
        they’ll laugh and sing for joy.
Sing hymns to God;
    all heaven, sing out;
        clear the way for the coming of Cloud-Rider.
Enjoy God,
    cheer when you see him!

REFLECTION

  • “At the heart of the Christian message is God Himself waiting for His redeemed children to push in to conscious awareness of His Presence. …Ignoble contentment” with the theoretical presence of God can take the place of a “burning zeal” for his actual presence, as “we bother ourselves very little about the absence of personal experience.”[13] Is your experience of God’s presence a theory or a conscious awareness?
  • As you read the following paragraphs based upon A.W. Tozer’s The Pursuit of God, consider whether you truly are committed to the selfless yielding of your will that is necessary for you to come more fully into God’s presence:

Tozer asks why we tarry outside of the presence of God when Jesus made it possible for us to enter. We know that it’s possible and we sense that Jesus is calling us, but we let years pass and don’t enter in. We grow “old and tired in the outer courts of the tabernacle.”

What hinders us, Tozer says, is a different veil not removed by Jesus’s sacrifice but put up and kept in place by us. This veil is sinister and keeps us from seeing God’s face as we cooperate with Satan in putting off its crucifixion. “It is the close-woven veil of the self-life which we have never truly acknowledged, of which we have been secretly ashamed, and which for these reasons we have never brought to the judgment of the cross.”

Noting that he is speaking to “the thirsting souls who are determined to follow God” and who will not turn back for fear of temporary discomfort, Tozer explains that we correctly perceive that tearing away the sins of the self-veil will be painful. “To be specific, the self-sins are these: self-righteousness, self-pity, self-confidence, self-sufficiency, self-admiration, self-love and a host of others like them.” But to grow spiritually, we much acknowledge the self-veil and submit it to God’s transforming work in us, accepting of the temporary pain brought by the awareness of our sin and confident of the joy that will endure in the presence of God.[14]

PRAYER

Lord Jesus, thank you for your amazing love and sacrifice for me. Please rid me of all sin that hinders my relationship with you. Bring me into the light of your face[15] so that I may be more aware of your presence and enjoy you to the fullest.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCE

“The Search for Joy and The Supremacy Of God” at https://youtu.be/U1F4J6l–hY.

EXCERPTS READY TO SHARE (copy and paste)

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FOOTNOTES

[1] The Westminster Larger Catechism and the Westminster Shorter Catechism were produced along with the Westminster Confession of Faith in an effort to summarize the richest doctrines of Scripture. In the Larger Catechism, the wording of the statement is “Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.” For more information on the Westminster Shorter and Larger Catechisms, please click here. For information on the historical background of the Westminster Confession, click here.

[2] Psalm 16:11, 32:11, 68:3; Habakkuk 3:18

[3] See the blog post What does it mean to live for Christ?

[4] Acts 7:55-56, 1 Corinthians 13:12

[5] See the blog post Seeking Jesus through the Word.

[6] Matthew 27:50-51. For information on the significance of the temple veil being torn, read What was the significance of the temple veil being torn in two when Jesus died?

[7] A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God, Kindle edition (Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications, Inc., 1948), 32–33.

[8] As St. Augustine wrote, “You made us for Yourself, and our heart is restless until it finds its place of rest in You” (“Confession of the Greatness of God,” in The Confessions of St. Augustine: Modern English Version [Grand Rapids, MI: Revell, 2008], 15–16).

[9] Psalm 107:9, John 6:35. Tozer, 34.

[10] Jeremiah 23:23-24, Psalm 139:7-10, Acts 17:27

[11] Mari-Anna Stålnacke, “How to Enjoy God,” Flowing Faith (blog), March 6, 2013, http://www.flowingfaith.com/2013/03/how-to-enjoy-god.html.

[12] Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God, Kindle Locations edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group, 2012), 345–47.

[13] Tozer, 34-35.

[14] Tozer, 39-44.

[15] Psalm 4:6

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