girl-prayerSarah grew up in the church as a Christian. But this past month, she found herself doubting her faith. Her health had taken a downward turn and she was racked with pain almost daily. The platitudes from church members–Bad things happen to good people, God is in control, etc., didn’t help or bring her closer to God. The borrowed faith of her parents was not working. It was time to make faith her own. Until now, nothing had really challenged her to question God or wonder if He was working in her life.

Sarah decided to employ a spiritual formation coach who understood the mind, body, and spirit connection. A Scriptures that led to this decision was Ephesians 3:17. When she read it, the words leapt off the page and into her heart. “Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.

Teresa of Avila once said that our greatest struggle in prayer is when God feels silent. Thomas Merton also noted that when God seems absent, we don’t realize He may be more present. Those difficult moments of darkness in our souls can lead us to depend on God’s power, not our own.

Sarah, in all her self- effort, could not bring joy to her soul or healing to her body. She needed God’s transforming power. Only God could purge her from herself and the doubt that characterized her life. She would now sit among the weeds with God as her Gardner. He would dig deep.

Sarah took time to do abiding prayer in which Sarah allowed God to lead her towards His presence. She used biblical images to help focus her mind on God. As Sarah sat in silence and meditated on biblical phrases, she rested in God’s presence. She did this with no agenda, but to listen to God and be led by His Spirit. Meditation and solitude were ways to explore her heart and see what needed to be “put off.” The more she meditated on God’s Word, the more she realized her circumstances did not determine God’s great love for her.

She would “put on” the mind of Christ through worship and celebration of God. A spiritual coach recommended a 24-hour fast from food and all media. During this time, Sarah was astounded at how much she depended on media and how little she depended on God. These spiritual disciplines helped develop a habit of turning to God to deepen the attachment.

Sarah and the coach decided to evaluate Sarah’s progress by the answers to two additional questions. The first was, “ Do I love God more today than I did before?” Sarah felt she was deepening her attachment to God through her time with Him. As she sat in His presence and quieted herself, she was refreshed by God’s love.

But the second question was much harder. It had to do with her obedience. “How well do I obey your Word?” The obstacles to her growth included her busyness, distraction from entertainment, and her deceitful heart. If she was honest, there was still too much self in her life that was prone to deceit. So daily, she exposed herself to Scripture and chose one command. She spent 20 minutes a day opening her heart to be with the Lord concerning the chosen command. For example, the command to bless the Lord at all times, was challenging. What kind of person would she need to be to live out this command? What was blocking her from doing what God directed?

As Sarah engaged with God, she was aware of God’s presence and wanted to obey His Word. Worry was replaced with trust. Through this process, her roots were getting deeper, and her love for God grew. Like Paul in prison, Sarah decided to be content no matter what. Healing would be wonderful, but through the pain, she could still praise and trust. Her faith was becoming her own.

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