Asheritah Ciuciu is the author of Unwrapping the Names of Jesus and Comfort Food: Overcoming Food Addiction with the Word of God. Asheritah grew up in Romania as a missionary kid and then studied English and Women's Ministry at Cedarville University in Ohio. Her passion is helping women find joy in Jesus through a deeper walk with God, and she shares vulnerably from her own life experiences on OneThingAlone.com. She is married to Flaviu, a web programmer and artist, and together they raise their spunky daughter in northeast Ohio.
I’ve recently received several emails from readers with variations of this question:
I want to be still in God’s presence, but it’s so hard! I can’t seem to stop the buzzing thoughts in my head, and it’s frustrating!
I like the idea of spending 5 minutes in stillness before God, but I cannot just not think about anything. Any time I try to quiet my mind, I start singing a song or thinking of a Bible verse. Am I doing it wrong?
There’s no “right” or “wrong” way to worship God when we’re coming to Him with open and sincere hearts. And I think different methods will work in different seasons of life. I know for me, personally, it was hard to quiet my mind enough to find stillness, but it’s something I cherish now.
I think it’s important to remember that the goal is not a zen-like meditative state where our minds disconnect from our bodies. That’s not in any way biblical. Rather, the goal is to allow the peace of God to rule in our minds and hearts by submitting all we are to Him, and allowing His stillness to refresh our souls. In this fast-paced world, we rarely get to experience stillness and peace, but so many Scriptures speak to the importance of resting in God’s presence.
Here are some ideas that might help:
Begin with a few minutes of praise and prayer.
Recite verses about God’s goodness, sing praise songs that lift your heart toward heaven and orient your mind on God. Then pour out your heart and tell God about all the things going on in your life, and lay them at the feet of Jesus. Picture yourself physically taking one burden after another, and with both hands placing them at His feet, and letting them lay there. Then rest.
Meditate on a passage.
When I have a hard time quieting my mind, I like to meditate on Psalm 46:10 (“Be still and know that I am God”). Focus on one word at a time, letting your mind linger on that one word for a few seconds before moving on to the next word. (Here’s another passage you may find helpful.) Gradually increase the time frame between each word, until you’ve reached the end and your mind is at rest.
Use your imagination.
I find it helpful to imagine God seated on His throne, using passages like Revelation 4-6 to inform my imagination. As I see Him high and lifted up, I kneel down and bow my face to the ground, picturing myself in the heavenly throne room, joining the angels and the elders in singing “Holy, Holy, Holy” and then being still in His presence. Other times I imagine myself crawling into Abba Father’s lap and laying my head on His shoulder, much like my two-year-old does when she just needs a hug.
Jot down distracting thoughts.
Sometimes, when I’m trying to quiet down my mind, I start to remember all sorts of things like birthday gift ideas, spring cleaning tasks, and meal plans. If that happens to you, grab the pen, write it down, and then return your attention to the Lord. Release those thoughts, knowing you can come back to them later.
Recite a prayer of stillness.
Asking God to help calm your mind like Jesus calmed the storming sea. Acknowledge your racing thoughts and ask the Holy Spirit to rule over them and help your mind rest in His presence. Here’s a prayer for stillness I wrote a few months ago that I still use today.
Begin with 30 seconds or a minute of stillness. Then build up to 5 or 10 minutes. It’s in this place of quiet communion that we quiet ourselves enough to hear what the Spirit would say to us in His still, small voice, words that we often miss in the rush of everyday life. And while 30 seconds may not seem like much, as you begin to incorporate this practice of stillness into your spiritual life, you’ll find it gets easier as the years go by.
The greatest blessing connected with stillness is that we can hear eternity; we can hear the voice of the Eternal One as He speaks to our conscience. (O. Hallesby)
Those are some of the ways I’ve begun to practice stillness and rest in my quiet time. I’ve found such refreshment and joy in just a few moments of stillness with God, and as a busy mom, that’s what often helps me get through the rest of my chaotic day.
I hope these suggestions help. What methods have you used that have helped you be still before God?
I should have expected it.
The rush to the ER. The trepidation of the unknown. The endless stream of medical history questions, needles, and IVs.
After all, I had prayed just earlier that week that God would tenderize my heart, make me sensitive to those around me, help me to care for others.
You see, I’m an INTJ. That means that I’m the perfect storm of introvert and rational, judgmental and intuitive. It looks like I’m distant, aloof, and unconcerned when really I just don’t know what to say and how to react, afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing so I remain motionless.
But God has been tilling up the soil of my heart, calling me to love in action, telling me that I love Jesus when I serve others. How else does abiding manifest itself if not in real-life care for those around us?
So there I was, pulling rubberized socks out of the sterile plastic baggie, slipping them on his tired feet; spreading mayonnaise over the paper-thin bread and arranging his sandwich just like he wants it; turning on channels and translating medical orders, and in the midst of it, I realized: I was serving Jesus.
This hospital room had become holy ground, as the presence of Jesus filled every nook and cranny.
God isn’t calling us to some extraordinary feat of service. He calls us to be alert to the cups of water and the soothing words, the packed lunches and your-my-hero texts, the pay-it-forward coffee cup and the rinsed-out sippy cup.
Because we serve Jesus when we care for the person next to us.
Day 10 Challenge: Look around you today. Who has God placed in your life today that needs your loving and tender care? Serve them as you would serve Jesus Himself.
Father, this is such a struggle for me. You know my heart and my sincere desire to serve, and You also know how often I’ve botched relationships because my pride of being misunderstood got in the way of serving. Help me take the towel and humble myself to serve even if it means making mistakes along the way. Teach me that when I care for others, I care for You.
This is the 10th post in the series, “Abiding in Christ–when reading the Bible isn’t an option.” Check out all the posts here.
Sometimes I wish my life looked different than it does. I convince myself that if only I had more time, if only I got more sleep, if only I __[insert excuse]__, I’d be closer to God than I am. But looking back on the seasons of my life, I realize that it’s not those external factors that determine the closeness of my relationship with Him; it’s my heart’s disposition toward Him.
I think back to my days as a high schooler, when I would spend hours each day studying a passage of Scripture or journaling my prayers. Those days on the mission field of Romania, enveloped by the luxury of homeschool hours and ministry as a way of life, I dedicated every moment of every day to growing deeper in my relationship with Jesus. And truly, I experienced intimacy with Him in a way that I never had before. It was deep. It was rich. It was life-changing. In the season of experiencing God’s presence, delight deeply in Him.
But then I returned to the US as a senior in highschool, and my days were filled with college applications, scholarship essays, and community service hours. I tried to cram more activities into an already-jammed calendar, and my moments with God slipped into the background, an after-thought, something I’d get to if I still had time at the end of the day. That season was dark and lonely, but God never left my side. He was always there. I wish I could go back and tell my 18-year-old self that the essays can wait and the to-do list can take a break, but each day with the Lord is fleeting, and worth investing in. In the season of busyness, find times of quiet to nourish your soul first before you feed the frenzy.
I had high hopes when I stepped foot on the Christian college campus that would be my home for the next four years. With daily chapel and over 2,000 Christian students, this school was going to cause a growth spurt in my relationship with God. And while I did grow in my knowledge and understanding of Scripture, my heart grew strangely cold. I longed for those days of sweet fellowship in my cabin room, nestled with my Bible, pen, and notebook, but every time I sat down to read Scripture it became an academic exercise instead of a relational interaction. I cried out for personal renewal, and but I couldn’t recapture that spiritual high I experienced as a teenager. But looking back, I know the Spirit was there with me even then. In the season of expectation, keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, not on a feeling of spiritual euphoria. Cherish Him, not the side-effect of His presence.
Jumping in with both feet, I started my career and my marriage within a few months, and I was determined to return to that intimacy with God that I remembered with such fondness. There was routine once more, and I “did all the right things,” but somehow, I couldn’t quite reach God.* He still seemed far from me. In the midst of that season, tragedy struck our family, and I went through all the feelings: anger, rage, bitterness, resentment, unforgiveness, and utter exhaustion. I discovered that God was big enough to handle both my boring days and my life-threatening days. I returned to the discipline of reading Scripture and praying, often using the Puritan’s prayers in the Valley of Vision to guide me because I had no words to say. And He was there beside me. In the season of both tragedy and uneventful living, practice quiet obedience, because God WILL reward those who diligently seek Him.
The season of motherhood arrived with its own set of challenges and rewards. Late nights and early mornings meant little semblance of normal, and my “daily quiet time” that I so cherished from my pre-motherhood days was long gone. But I listened to the entire Bible during those midnight nursings, and I sneaked in times of prayer when I could. And I began praying. Earnestly. Eagerly. God, awaken me again. There He was, right next to me. In the season of utter exhaustion, invite Him into the nooks and crannies of your life, and His presence will come, first as a trickle, then as a river, then as an overflowing ocean.
It’s been almost a year ago that I fell on my face at a conference, realizing just how desperately I had been searching for deep, authentic intimacy with my Lord and Savior for all those seasons between high school and that day. I wanted, like the speaker said, to sit at the feet of Jesus and bask in the beauty of His presence. But I didn’t know how. So I prayed one simple prayer, and it became my heart cry that next season: “Deeper, Lord. Take me deeper into Your presence. Whatever it takes.” And He did. In an amazing way, He swooped in and over the course of a few months, restored to me the joy of fellowship with Him, deeper, richer, and fuller than even during those high school years. In the season of personal renewal, celebrate His goodness and drink deeply of His presence.
This is the season I’m in right now, but I’m headed into another season now, a season that will include a two-year-old and a baby, a growing ministry and business deadlines. And I don’t know what my relationship with God will look like in this season. There’s fear and aprehension, “what-if’s” and lurking suspicions.
I don’t want to go back to the time of being too busy for God or of chasing a spiritual high instead of God Himself. But this is what God promises:
“You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord.
If there’s one thing I learned in the seasons of life, it’s this: God is ever faithful to draw near to those who draw near to Him, whether that’s in 60-second or 2-hour chunks. Different seasons of life will look different. A mom of little ones can’t afford the luxury of lounging in her pjs reading her Bible and praying like a homeschooled teenager can. But both can make seeking the Lord a priority in their lives, even if it doesn’t look the same.
If you want to be close to God, know that there is no formula, no 3-step process, no blanket statement to cover it all. But in every season, He is with you. Seek Him. He’s there, ready to be found by you, if you seek Him with all your heart.
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