If you’re anything like me, or anyone else in the World, peace seems hard to come by. Ya know? That peace that surpasses all understanding, that inexplicable God-sized peace. Peace when it doesn’t make sense. Peace when no one would blame you for being anxious, nervous, or worried. Peace when everyone else around you is losing their mind. Peace when there’s tragedy. Peace when there’s hardship. Peace when there’s conflict. Peace when there’s a deadline. The peace that is promised. How do you even begin to step into that kind of peace?
Peace on the beach when it’s 75 and sunny is easy. Peace when your house is clean and quiet…that’s easy. Peace when everything seems to be going your way – that’s easy. But God doesn’t just declare peace over our lives in those moments, He declares them over all of life’s moments.
BUT HOW? I’ve struggled with major anxiety pretty much my entire life. I think I’ve told you guys before about how even as a little girl (like 3 and 4 years old) I would be anxious about the “plan” for the day. Then as I got older – my problems got bigger, and so did my anxiety. I’ve suffered from panic attacks. I’ve been on medication. I’ve retreated into isolation. I’ve let fear overcome me. For a long time, anxiety was my normal. Anxious was my steady. I didn’t even realize that not everyone lived this way.
So when I found my way back to Christ I honestly didn’t expect Him to heal my anxious heart, I didn’t even ask for it. I had grown so close to my normal of anxious chaos that I didn’t even realize how it had taken over my thoughts. Slowly God began to reveal to me that he wanted to change everything about my heart – and anxiety was first on the list.
I poured over scripture, I prayed through tears, I begged for redemption from this stronghold, I shouted worship. And it felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere. I would declare scripture over my life, and I still felt the knot of anxiety. I didn’t understand.
As I was hiking after work one day, as I often do, pretty overwhelmed with responsibility, and ultimately just heavy hearted from the work that I do – I sat down and cried. I didn’t understand how I could have this relationship with Jesus and still feel so anxious all the time. I knew the truths of His word, I knew the magnitude of his sovereignty, I understood His love and grace – and yet – it wasn’t enough to wipe out this anxiety. How could it NOT be enough? What is wrong with me that this isn’t enough? What is wrong with me that I can’t figure this out?
And then God spoke.
He told me to stop trying so hard. That nothing I do or don’t do will do the job that only He can do in my heart. At that moment a wave of peace came over me. A warmth literally wrapped my heart, and that moment – I believe is the first time in possibly decades (maybe ever) that I’ve felt true God-sized peace. I could stop the chase. I already had everything within me to access this peace that’s promised. Then He told me that whenever I feel anxious, to meet Him here at this place. I looked around, and it really was the perfect place. Middle of the woods, right next to a lake. Quiet – no one around.
But, this had me confused. God, I can’t just drive over here in the middle of my work day when I’m feeling overwhelmed. I can’t just dip out of a hard conversation to come and meet you in the woods…If I came to this spot every time I felt anxious, well, let’s just put it this way – I should just build a house here.
And he said: No, my Holy Spirit. Go there every time, and remember this place.
God had just given me a sacred space.
I now call it my Holy Spirit fortress. I’m kind of obsessed.
“Has God not given Christ His Almighty Son to be the Keeper of every believer, to make Christ an ever-present reality, and to impart and communicate to us all that we have in Christ? God has given us His Son, and God has given His Spirit. How is it that believers do not live up to their privileges?” – Andrew Murray
And so I go there all the time now. Whenever I feel anything less than peace, I close my eyes and I go there – to the place where the Holy Spirit lives in me. I imagine that space just like that place in the woods, and immediately I’m catapulted into the intimate presence of the Lord.
We all have a Holy Spirit fortress, it might look different for each person, but I suggest you ask God to reveal that space to you. It’s been one of the most special gifts He’s given me.
The other day someone who just met me recently told me – “Ya know, you’re like the chillest person I know”. I laughed, because who I am outside the presence of God is literally the least chill ever. To God be the glory.
“Plenty of outward discomforts there may be, and many earthly sorrows and trials, but through them all the soul that knows God cannot but dwell inwardly in a fortress of perfect peace.” – Hannah Whitall Smith
If you want help crafting your own fortress with God – read “Guarded by Christ”, by Heather Holleman. It helped me put words to my sacred space.