What keeps us trying to focus our minds on the Lord and turn our hearts toward his? The joy of knowing he transforms us to reflect his presence and glory until we mirror God himself. “Look to him that you may be radiant with joy,” (Psalm 34:6).
This radiant joy creeps into our lives as we develop an intimate relationship with the Lord in prayer. Like the early Christians, God created us to display the presence of God in our happiness and joy so that the world will see something is different.
We are radiant with joy because God loves us. This transformation comes through the indwelling presence of God himself. These moments of radiant joy help us cultivate the habit of practicing the presence of God.
God’s presence dwells within us from our formation in the womb and then removes our original sin at our baptism. That sacrament eventually opens the door to the Eucharist where we receive him ever more fully. Jesus calls us into a relationship with him through our baptism and shares his dynamic presence with us through every sacrament.
The grace, glory, and presence of God come through this relationship with him. The pure in heart experience God’s presence as his grace floods their spirits. When we sin we refuse to glorify God, for sin deprives us of his glory and hides his presence. Obedience, surrender, and humility keep us in God’s presence as we depend on our Father for everything. How does this work?
If I am God’s beloved child and he is the center of my life, then I want to live every moment in his presence, in his will. He surprises me with hidden gifts, which I often don’t recognize. He unlocks better ways for me to react to emotional hot buttons, ways I hesitate to accept. He begins to break the sinful patterns I want to ignore but he wants to expel.
If I act out like a rebellious child, I walk away from his will and his presence, his loving relationship with me. Then I easily give into temptation to assert my will, defend my stance, or let loose my outrage.
When I choose to live out my life in his presence, I don’t need to confront others or defend myself. I needn’t overreact to what anyone insists is the truth but in fact is a carefully phrased lie. I needn’t fear discovering my weaknesses while cradled in the strong arms of his loving presence. I know the Truth and he is my Way and my Life.
When I am aware of living in God’s presence, he helps me develop confidence. Not confidence in myself, but in him, yet based on who I am in him. I’m far from living consistently in his presence, but as our relationship grows I’m working toward choosing to mirror his compassionate, non-judgmental presence in my life in the way I look and walk and talk.
We can look forward to heaven for our ultimate joy while knowing he dwells with us most actively in the present tense of our lives. He is the healer of the past, provider of the future, and God of the present. We can live right here, right now with the Lord, undaunted by the hurts of the past or fears about the future. When we stay awake to his continual presence, calling on him in every situation, he will meet us and join hearts with us. We become radiant with joy.
Does your relationship with God bring you the radiant joy of his presence?
(© 2014 Nancy H C Ward)
(Photo by Nancy Ward taken above Calvary Hill Cemetery, Dallas, TX)