What does it look like to Abide in Christ? Does it look like a peaceful tree surrounded by designs of light? I’m sure it’s not so visual, but this is the image God gave me one day when I was contemplating all that He had been teaching me lately. It wasn’t just a picture, there were words too; amazing words! At the same time I intuitively heard, “Peace is simple.”
Ah! How beautifully the words hit me; like a warm breeze or a gentle hug! Peace is simple, simple to attain. In the moment that I stopped trying to find peace and force myself to be peaceful, it found me! It was in the letting go and the stillness that I most felt the Peace of God’s presence. I’d been learning about letting go and going with the flow for some time, about surrendering my need to control the future and have everything go to plan. I’d been practicing slowing down and being still in God’s presence. Finally, I was starting to experience the effects of surrender!
I named this painting Abide because it reminded me of these verses ~
Abide in me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing… As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Abide in my love. ~ John 15:4-5, 9
Up until this point in my life I had tricked myself into thinking I was abiding in Christ, but I didn’t even know what it meant! For a long time I had been experiencing the burden of lack and frustration; I couldn’t be who I longed to be and nothing I wanted to happen was happening. As hard as I tried and as many hours as I worked towards my goals, I was no better off. Slowly I realized I was trying to force the future to happen on my terms, and doing it all from an attitude of distrust and impatience, just like a control-freak! Every time I prayed, “I believe! I have faith! Show up for me God! Move in my life!” I was doing it from the heart motive of pride, thinking I could earn God’s favor. I thought if I could believe hard enough and have enough faith then surely God would answer my prayers! Agh!! I was so frustrated; I was so defeated; should I give up? How much faith do I need?!
Little did I realize, I actually did need to give up! My ‘faith’ was in my ability to have faith; my ‘belief’ was in how much belief I could muster up. It was only an action based faith and I wasn’t relying on God with a childlike trust. I was so fixated on the outcomes and the way I wanted to receive things that I was completely distracted from what God had in store for me. God wanted to be my stronghold, strength and comfort in those times, but was keeping just enough distance for just the right amount of time to bring me to the point of surrender. He was ready to help as soon as I was ready to rely on Him alone and not on my own efforts.
Slowly I started to grow, giving up long enough to sit still and listen. God started to inspire my thoughts. He told me I needed to surrender my ideas and goals to Him because He had greater plans for me than anything I could imagine! (Ephesians 3:20) Now everyday I practice this kind of childlike trust, using my faith like a muscle that gets stronger with practice and use. Some days are harder than others and I slide back into the anxious thought patterns, but with grace there is no such thing as failure and so those anxious days just become another strength exercise for my faith muscles.
One of the ways I practice is by repeating, “All of my focus is directed towards God” and “My consuming passion is to be close with God!” By practicing these simple phrases I am being reminded to set my heart on God and fill up my thoughts with Him. When I focus on God and I feel the peaceful presence of steadfast Love, AH!! Nothing else matters! All anxieties fall away; naturally the worries of the future don’t even cross my mind, and it feels like my needs are already met! With a mind set on God everything else falls into place, just like Matthew 6:33 says ~
Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,
and all these things will be added to you.
And John 15:7 ~
If you abide in me, and my words abide in you,
ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you.
My highest desire is to seek to abide in my Lord ~ to focus all of who I am, mind, body, heart, and spirit on His unsearchable majesty! I ask for God’s thoughts to be my thoughts and for my dreams to be aligned with His dreams. It’s when I try to put the material things of this world first that worries creep in. When I try to force things to happen and piece my life together, that’s when things start falling apart. It all makes perfect sense ~ if I’ve already asked God to align my desires with His, why wouldn’t He allow the things which distract me from the one necessary thing to break down and fall apart? And what is the one thing that truly matters? We are told plainly in Luke 10 ~
A woman named Martha welcomed Jesus into her house. And she had a sister named Mary who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. She went up to Him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”
But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary, Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42
The one necessary thing is to sit at Jesus’ feet, listening and drawing close to Him, not giving into distractions. What encourages me from these verses is that Martha was distracted with good things, with serving and giving of herself. Why does this encourage me? Because I have had so many noble desires in the past that I would hold so tightly, unwilling to surrender them over to God’s loving hands, justifying it by my good intentions. However, I realize now that surrendering our desires doesn’t mean they will automatically be taken away from us, but rather it just means we are willing to give them up in order to receive something better. Oftentimes we are divinely passionate about something because it is God’s will for us in the first place, but it should never steal from our passion to seek God. Surrendering actually allows for more of a chance to keep the things we love, because the moment we hold too tightly to something is the moment it needs to be taken away in order to redirect your focus back on The One necessary thing. Then, we may or may not keep and receive all we ever dreamed of in the past, but we have all we dream of now! The One necessary thing ~ to be close to our God, built up and grounded in Him, abiding in His presence in every moment! And when you and I have Him, we could care less about outcomes and plans going our way!
So we now have an image of a tree and the word “abide” for more and more contemplation on what it really means to abide in Christ. To have everything else fall away! What more is necessary? What matters more? Is there anything that could compare?
Peace is simple; knowing God is simple! It’s only when we try too hard and over complicate things that we get sidetracked and lose sight of what really matters. Perhaps if we just sat still for long enough, if we just stopped trying, if we just let go, everything else will fall into place. Join me! Surrender and live in trust ~ simply abide.
By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. ~ 1 John 4:13
So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. ~ 1 John 4:16
About the author:
Tilly approaches her art with the intention to learn and try something new; each piece takes on its own unique character, telling a story that can be interpreted differently from one day to the next!”