January 14, 2022
The Ministry of Presence
You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever (Psalm 16:11 NLT).
Friend to Friend
I could feel myself leaning forward in my seat as I watched the mock counseling session unfold before me. How long would my classmate, who was acting as the counselor, hold the space and remain silent while my other classmate, who was the client, vulnerably processed her struggle?
She waited and waited, not saying a word but leaning into the confession.
This was no longer a demonstration in a class full of observing students but rather a real moment of vulnerability from a young woman who felt stuck and overwhelmed. She was ready for help. Her willingness invited the authentic connection with her “pretend” counselor, who held the space with tenderness and empathy. A breakthrough was happening . . . and then the timer buzzed announcing the end of the five-minute session. Yes, only five minutes!
With a deep sigh, our professor graciously acknowledged and applauded the work – both the deep work of the classmate willing to get real before all of us and the careful work of the classmate who responded to confession with the perfect amount of silence and an insightful probing question to get beneath the surface.
It was a beautiful lesson about the power of silence – a lesson I was struggling to learn. So I asked my professor, “How do you know when to say something and when to keep quiet?” His response was so simple yet so profound.
“As long as it takes. This is the ministry of presence. This is what the Lord does for us.”
Immediately, I thought of Immanuel, which means, “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). I thought of all the ways God reveals His presence in my life – from the calming peace that comes in the middle of chaos to the overflowing joy when there is a simple resolution to a problem. Isn’t this what the Psalmist describes of God when he declared, “You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever” (Psalm 16:11 NLT).
Imagine what would happen if we lived with the confidence of the Psalmist, fully knowing and sensing the presence of God while finding pleasure simply from being with Him. Would we be able to let go of the worry, striving, and stress as we trust in the One who is with us, leading and guiding us, because we would know Him in such a real and tangible way?
We find life’s greatest pleasures in the presence of God.
Yet, the gift of God’s presence will be missed if we don’t hold space, as my counselor-in-training classmate did for our fellow student. She waited quietly, purposefully, intently as the words and tears poured forth. She didn’t rush in to fix the struggle or get quickly through the uncomfortable vulnerability. In so many ways, she portrayed God . . . with us.
Yes, God is with us.
Moment by moment.
Not rushing but waiting.
Maybe probing, but patiently.
He is with us, working in His presence. But are we paying attention to Him? Looking for Him?
What would happen if we shifted our focus from connecting with God to get what we want from Him and rather seek the gift of His presence, knowing that is exactly what we need? Imagine the transformation that would take place, not only in us but also in what He wants to accomplish through us as ambassadors of His ministry of presence.
Dear Lord, thank You for this gift of Your presence that we find by faith in Jesus Christ. Thank You for calling us into the ministry of presence with You and with each other. May we learn how to experience Your presence, holding space for our hearts to heal, minds to be transformed, and lives to be utterly changed for Your glory. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Now It’s Your Turn
What does God’s ministry of presence look and feel like for you?
What does God’s ministry of presence to others look and feel like to you?
What would it look like for you to hold space for someone else to process what he or she is going through rather than rushing in to fix the problem?
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© 2022 by Elisa Pulliam. All rights reserved.
Originally published Friday, 14 January 2022.