There was this Women’s Retreat that I went to just a couple of weeks ago. “His Story: It’s All Joy” was the theme. All the ingredients had been prepared for God to be able to show-up. He did. Big time.
The early fall weather was perfect at a spirit-filled conference center in the small mountain town. Details like goodie bags, name tags and centerpieces were tended to. The worship team was practiced. The anticipation of how the Holy Spirit would move could be felt as prayers were lifted for the weekend to a start.
I’ve had my share of experiences with Women’s Retreats. Great times to get away from the daily grind and focus on spiritual growth. Time for being in community with friends and just having fun. I’ve cherished most of those times where the Holy Spirit drew me in and did some heart work.
This retreat didn’t disappoint. 30 women bonding together with songs, crafts, meals, and heart work. The speaker honed right in with how we can “count it all joy”. Familiar territory for this retreat veteran.
During that Friday night session, the speaker spoke of something she called ‘Biblical Imagination’. The type of meditation that helps us practice the presence of God in our lives. In Ephesians 1:18, Paul prays that ‘the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you”. Could the eyes of my heart be that biblical imagination that allows me to picture more of who God is and the hope I am called to?
I was curious and as she continued her thoughts, I was encouraged. She mentioned that Oswald Chambers, one of my life-long favorites, wrote about imagination. How it was dangerous for the believer not to use their imagination to practice the presence of God. “Is your imagination stayed or starved,” Chambers asks? I concluded that this girl who lives in the here and now of her five senses was probably a little malnourished! Time for the eyes of my heart to get a wake up call.
That evening as we sat around tables with fall pumpkins and our eyes closed, she read scripture verses. As the Word of God surrounded us, she asked us to focus on what the eyes of our heart might be seeing. How was the presence of the Holy Spirit renewing my mind’s eye? What was I seeing? What was I hearing?
For the past few months I had been feeling alone and disconnected from God. I know he is always with me, but I was experiencing a sort of wandering nevertheless. Some anxiety even, as I thought about the future. The uncertainties of health, income, and ministry had been weighing heavy on my heart. I had been asking God for a new perspective. One that focuses on His purpose and plan.
After a few minutes of praying and listening to God’s Word being read, my mind began to see something. I visualized a hand, the hand of God, reaching out to me. It was something to hold on to. I was reminded that I am not alone and with out purpose. As this picture of God’s hand came to my mind I heard a verse from Isaiah…
Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.
Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you.
I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. Isaiah 41:10
My heart was filled with the Joy that comes from the work of the Spirit. I felt reassured that I was not alone. All I had to do was reach out my hand to God and He would be there.
But there was more…I had a deep sense that The Pastor was going through a strong spiritual attack. The word oppression even came to mind. I felt a heaviness in my spirit knowing that the man I love was in such a vulnerable place spiritually.
The song “How Sweet the Sound” played and I felt the wave of amazing grace wash over me. I held on to the righteous right had of God. I knew that He would strengthen and uphold me.
I talked with the speaker afterwards. The funny thing is she never read that verse. It wasn’t in her notes.
In my deepest need He is holding onto me. Taking care of the enemies who rage against me. My enemies might be worry, anxiety, or health.They might be those circumstances that are out of my control like suddenly losing your life’s work and experiencing the changes follow. Isaiah 41 continues…
“All who rage against you
will surely be ashamed and disgraced;
those who oppose you
will be as nothing and perish.
Though you search for your enemies,
you will not find them.
Those who wage war against you
will be as nothing at all.
For I am the Lord your God
who takes hold of your right hand
and says to you, Do not fear;
I will help you.” Isaiah 41: 11-13
The oppression and spiritual attack that I sensed The Pastor experiencing is nothing when I am holding onto God’s right hand. I am not afraid. God is protecting me.
My Story is God’s Story. Redeemed. Preserved. Encouraged. Strengthened. Victorious.