looking up & pressing in
Four days in to a five-day prayer retreat, all was well. Last week I spent 5 days with some of the folks I work with, praying for our church and church communities.
Time had flown by; being with people I care about, admire and am fortunate to work alongside. We discussed significant struggles, prayed for one another and seemed to be making progress.
The fourth morning, things took a turn.
Unexpectedly, I had the disturbing sense of feeling different than everyone else in the room. I felt like they were pushing for something greater, and I wasn’t. I heard them pray, but nothing connected with me. I was out of synch with them, and I became discouraged. Pretty quickly, I wanted to leave.
Keep in mind, I love these people, and enjoy working with them. Yet, I slipped into a very lonely, and frustrated place.
I knew better than what I was thinking, but I thought the worst anyway. Though I didn’t know it, others in the room were also feeling discouraged and isolated.
In hindsight, it’s clear the enemy came after us. After 3+ days of unity, great fellowship and an encouraging retreat, we were experiencing opposition.
At our break, I went downstairs to get away from the group. I wanted to process the morning.
I called Celia, and she knew what I was feeling wasn’t right. She encouraged me by listening and telling me it was an attack. But still, I was struggling. I sat in a chair, looking out the window at this incredibly beautiful snowstorm, and asked God for help.
Here’s what I experienced next:
· As alone as I felt, I knew my Heavenly Father was with me.
· I love to see wildlife in nature. While sitting downstairs, this little herd of mule deer came up on my left and walked all the way across to my right. I’d seen these deer earlier in the week, but never this close. One even came right up to my window. I felt like God sent the small mule deer by my window to remind me He saw me, and was with me.
· Back upstairs, I realized I wasn’t the only one struggling. We processed where we were and talked about how we should spend the balance of our day.
· Will led us into a time of affirmation, thinking it might take a few hours. Instead, as we affirmed one another, The Lord showed up. It took over 10 hours, ending after midnight on our final day in the mountains.
· Each one of us took a turn in the chair, while our co-workers told us “the thing(s) they’d want us to know, if this was their last chance to talk with us.” As we loved one another, break through came flooding in.
· All of the weirdness, isolation, and frustration I’d felt earlier, blew away. As I listened to my friends affirm one another, my discouragement was replaced by this incredible blessing of gratitude and love for our team.
Here’s what I learned:
· When I struggle and feel alone, I am not alone. His Word promises He is always with me, so I need to look to Him. "Those who look to Him for help will be radiant with joy. No shadow of shame will darken their faces." - Psalm 34:5
· God encourages us with little things, like a herd of deer coming to your window in a snowstorm.
· If we quit in the face of opposition, we might miss an incredible opportunity to see The Lord move.
· When we choose to love one another, like our group did that afternoon and night, the enemy is powerless in his attacks against us. Love covers a bunch. "Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony." - Colossians 3:14
· Experiencing the Presence of Christ in the body of Christ is powerful; a taste of what’s to come.
Finally, let me encourage you, during our 40 days of prayer and fasting to join with others and pray together for big things. Meet together, love and affirm one another. It is a powerful example of the kind of love and unity Jesus desires for us to experience.