God is vast–beyond the universe kind of vast. And yet, we make him so small–smaller than ourselves. People seem to think that God stands over us demanding we “get it right” before he’ll bestow his goodness and love. That just isn’t true. His love and his goodness are all around us, even within us, available to us at all times. Somehow, we miss it. We don’t know how to see or experience his presence as we were created to do.
I’ve mentioned before that I suffered from depression for most of my life, desperately wanting to be free; and I’ve shared that after many years of seeking freedom and a long, heart-wrenching process, when I was finally delivered and healed, I experienced a freedom I never imagined could be mine. But here’s the thing. God didn’t just bring freedom to me; he became freedom in me.
Then again, when I was in the middle of overwhelming circumstances, God overwhelmed me with his peace. I experienced that peace from within and all around me. He didn’t just give peace to me; he became peace in me. Peace that passes understanding isn’t just peace that you’re surprised you have in the middle of difficulty; it’s a peace that overwhelms to the point that it literally cannot be comprehended. It was the same when he showed me his love. It wasn’t a gift he handed me. It was part of himself he helped me to experience. He became an inexplicable love within me. Only as I began to perceive in my heart the depths of his love for me could I heal and become free. It took years to take in what he always had been, right there within me.
When I was facing the loss of my husband to a terrible form of cancer, the Holy Spirit came in and filled his hospital room. My heart and soul were filled with joy. Yes, joy! It was a joy that changed my outlook and mindset permanently, because he became joy within me. It helped me face watching the devastating effects of cancer on my husband’s body and mind day after day. It helped me walk with my children through their fear and disillusionment. It has continued to confirm my freedom from depression. It’s not an emotion. It’s who God is within me. It’s my state of being, as long as I keep myself in him. (I wish I could say I’ve never shifted off course, but I have. When I remember to look in his face and abide in him, I get back on track and feel like myself again. Sometimes that takes longer than I care to admit!)
I had to experience these things—freedom, peace, love, and joy—within me, not as things that happen to me or emotions that come and go, so that I could grasp that he is freedom, peace, love, joy, and so much more! When it finally clicked in my mind and heart that these different aspects must fill me up from the inside, he simultaneously nudged me into a completely new and infinitely deeper realization of the meaning of words I had heard my whole life; “God is love.” And not only that, but he is freedom, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness…
It is an ever so slightly different emphasis, but we must absorb the spiritual reality deep in our hearts that he actually is all of this. There is not joy or peace in the world that is not him. He rains on the righteous and the unrighteous. This world is still his creation—he could not have created it without permeating it with what he is. He loves because he is love, thus he loves all of the humans filling the planet as his dearly cherished children, whether we are lost or found. He can’t help it because it is what he is! The fruit of the spirit is him!
I don’t know if I’m getting across the revelation that I received. I pray that these words bring life to someone. As I said, I had heard the words my whole life, but suddenly they made sense, suddenly it was real. It’s a life-changing recognition that will never abandon. Even now, receiving who he is into my very heart, I still haven’t scratched the surface. He is so much bigger and better than it is possible to comprehend. We forget that. We reduce him to our understanding. Instead, we need to comprehend him with our hearts. The more I receive these revelations, the more awe-struck I am at how little I know of him.
If you are reading this and you’re thinking with a yawn, “Been there, done that,” then no, you have not. I’m not an emotional church lady. Passionate, yes. But only because of this great God whom I know oh, so differently today than I did fifteen years ago. There is nothing blasé or nonchalant about God, and once you experience him to your depths and you get what he is, and that he is that in you… my friend, you will never be the same, and your spirit will jump within you when you hear another’s testimony of the goodness and greatness of God.
I get to take all of this with me as I walk into the next seasons of my life. Running after the dreams God has put in me, caring and walking alongside family and loved ones… Whatever I face ahead, I have the Spirit of the Living God in me, growing ever bigger and more wonderful. It makes me excited for what’s coming next.
How about you? How has God shown himself in and to you?