by Lou Lam

I once heard someone say, that daily prayer and scripture is as important for a new mother, as milk is to a baby. I knew it would bring much-needed life and nourishment to my tired being. Life with two little ones has been quite a shock to the system, to say the least. No antenatal course quite prepares you for the requirement of such a total sacrifice of your body and self. The vulnerability, pressure to avoid mistakes and harassment of expectations is often overwhelming as I would fret over my attempts to “sort my life out”, portray an appearance of success, pursue professional dreams, grapple endless to-do lists, toddler-going-teen tantrums and navigate commitments to my family. In a season where I didn’t have the time for many words, I longed for a tangible assurance of God’s presence. But carving out time for myself to shower or eat, let alone have quiet times has felt quite impossible. Daily brain fog becomes the norm on better days or sleeps deprived migraines on others. At times I even struggled to string thoughts together talking to friends.

I’d be sitting well-intentioned with a coffee and my Bible, but would end up staring into space or simply sitting with a lump in my throat, unable to admit my feeling of defeat and weakness. I longed for peace and rest.

“Lord”, I prayed, “I know You are the answer to it all and what I need the most is a deeper connection with You. But honestly, I don’t see how I’m going to achieve meaningful private time with You in my day. I desperately need You, and I really need to feel You throughout my day. Please, help me to figure out how to see You, feel energised by my work and dare I ask it, my greatest wish would be to live more days without anxiety running my life than with. Parenting was Your idea, Lord, surely You also thought of a way of staying connected with You, when my attention is pulled elsewhere and time is no longer in my control. I’ve utterly reached the end of myself. I’ve got nothing left to try to reach You with.”

The miracle happened when having a particularly unspectacular and low day. The kind where you feel defeat the moment you wake. My toddler had spat his breakfast everywhere—just for fun. And I was feeling particularly guilty about how uncoolly I’d handled it. The internal voice of mum-guilt was heavy and loud, and I felt myself say inside, “How rubbish I am at applying the Word to my life”, “It obviously doesn’t have any power to influence my reactions”, and “heck, it probably isn’t even all true!” I was shocked. How jarring it was to become aware of this internal squabble going on and to find myself questioning the credibility of the gospel over, quite literally, spilt milk. I was truly having a challenge of faith.

Enough was enough, the first point of call, I was going to tackle the first obstacle in my way of a moment with God. I stuck the toddler in front of Netflix and put the baby on her playmat, and poured my heart over paper scraps and backs of receipts from my purse. No time to fish out those fancy Moleskins I’d been saving for pensive moments. I don’t know why I started writing over talking, but somehow, it felt like if I got words out on paper, my train of thought wouldn’t be so easily snatched from me. Either way, though it was hard work, before long, I was staring at my feelings in words. One sentence, in particular, I read out, “If I don’t get this parenting thing right, I’m going to create a child psychopath!” As I saw what I’d written, I burst out laughing—how hysterically preposterous! As I went through my list of quarms, I was able to so clearly see that the source of much of the shame that I felt, was founded on fears, but not legitimate, grounded fears at all, just downright awful lies! Where on earth had they come from?!

In a previous season of my life, I might have tried to dissect the source of my negativity. I had no time, two more minutes at best. A quiet thought came to mind that God is sovereign over all, that there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus and that everything has been accomplished. I have all the fullness of Christ now and I can live out of God’s REST (His finished works in Christ). I realised God’s rest, is not my physical calm or an agenda-less day, but a state of trust. Trust in knowing that He finished it all, meaning, He has done all the hard work of demolishing walls between us. His son died and was raised again to conquer all negativity, mistakes, and poor choices that could separate me from Him. And as a seal and mark of this certainty, placed His living Son Jesus within me, so that I would never need to strive for His presence, or beg for His peace again. I asked myself, is God big enough to cover all my issues, whether I understand them all or not? I chose yes! And do I believe that all my negativity was nailed to the cross with Jesus? Including all my feelings of anxiety, fear, guilt, and shame? I chose, yes yes! So I said, “Lou, now is the time to grow up. Be mature and make a decision about what you believe. Because your negative thoughts follow your beliefs and will only surrender to one person. So, who do you truly believe in?” I decided in that moment that there was no condemnation for me because of Jesus and that I was now no longer in possession of guilt and shame. I displaced the negative with the Truth and it literally set me free. As I spoke Romans 8:1 over myself, “For there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”, my feeling of guilt drifted away and I felt a sense of ease.

So for that day, I made it my goal to identify every anxious or shame-ridden thought, and replace it simply with a God’s promise. By the end of the day, I had no negative thoughts left. My heart and head had been emptied of them all. Most importantly, God’s truths had displaced them and filled the space entirely. Scripture had become alive, I realised what it meant to “take every thought captive!” To “resist the devil and have him flee.” My heart felt free, my being felt light, and my inner self felt guarded like a suit of armour. It was then that I was overwhelmed with an incredible STILLNESS. Stillness and a sense of beautiful peace. I realised, THIS is the tangible feeling of God’s presence! That this peace had been there all along, it was always mine and I didn’t need to ask for it. It isn’t something God has, it’s who He is. For God’s Son, the Prince of Peace was reigning in my inner place. It had previously just been overtaken by the clamour of negative thoughts that I had left unchecked, unchallenged, and unrestrained. I became aware of an inner place of refuge, a quiet place to which I could retreat, to be with the Lord, even in busy moments. I could choose to silence the old-man thinking and choose God’s new-man truths instead. That was all that was required on my part. 

I now appreciate the importance of renewing my mind daily, in order to know His peace and trust Him regardless of new challenges. At any point on any day, I can talk to my Father, in Jesus name.

Stillness was originally published by the Vine Church, Hong Kong and is reproduced with thanks. Lou Lam designed the Peacemaker Trust logo and distinctive dove symbol.