Finding Peace in God’s Presence

By monthly contributor, Ann Dunagan of Harvest Ministry

‘Tis the season to be jolly . . . yet often overly busy.

Writing Christmas cards. Decorating the house. Buying and wrapping presents. Cooking. Baking. Preparing for parties and hospitality. Getting ready for church events. Just thinking about all these things we “need” to do can be exhausting, but it doesn’t need to be.

As we’re heading into the Christmas season, a time to celebrate God’s PEACE and joy, let’s remember to simply seek God for what should be done (and what activities could be eliminated to bring more of God’s presence into our homes and family).

To stay in God’s divine daily balance, let’s make PRAYER a priority!

Jon and I just returned home from a thrilling two-week mission outreach to East Africa, so in addition to all of our upcoming Christmas activities, I’m catching up with kiddos and homeschooling, doing weeks of past ministry correspondence (and laundry!!!), helping my husband with oversight for 500+ remote village pastors from nine different nations who are joining with our ministry, seeking God’s provision for 750+ orphan children, preparing for big-kids coming home from college (including a just-engaged son — making two upcoming summer weddings), plus thinking about what to do for upcoming holiday meals with lots of company and for three immediate-family-member December birthdays . . . Whew!!!

Is it possible to have peace in the midst of busyness?

YES!!! The key is casting our cares on the Lord, and spending special time in the presence of God, one-on-one with Jesus, our Almighty Prince of Peace.

The will of God —
nothing less, nothing more, nothing else.”
— F. E. Marsh

Real PEACE comes from the PRESENCE of Jesus!

Special moments at Guma Na Yesu Children

Think of everything Jesus needed to do!!!

I just love the example our Lord Jesus demonstrated to us during His time here on earth. Instead of being directed by the overwhelming needs of the moment, Jesus took time to pray and to seek the Heavenly Father’s perfect direction for each day, and did exactly (and only) what needed to be done . . .

Jesus only lived 33 years on earth and spent just 3 short years in ministry.

In this short time period, Jesus had more on His “to-do” list than any of of could ever comprehend.

  • He was responsible for providing God’s only way of salvation for all humanity.
  • He had to establish a brand-new worldwide training program (through scriptural teaching and personal example) to explain God’s eternal kingdom.
  • He had to equip His ground-level leaders (in deep theology and practical life skills) for future global impact.
  • And on top of all that, He couldn’t sin or make a mistake . . . not even once!

Even with such a limited time allotment, an eternally important job, and such spiritual “pressure” (from our point of view), Jesus was never rushed or stressed-out. In spite of all He needed to do (and because of all He needed to do), Jesus always took time to pray.

God’s perspective is so much different than ours.

During his 33 years on earth, Jesus took 30 years to live as a simple carpenter and to simply “be” with His Heavenly Father. Jesus was totally perfect and totally God-in-the-Flesh, yet throughout His life He took time to seek God’s direction and guidance. Even when everyone else was busy and multitudes had pressing needs, Jesus took time to be quiet and to get away, and to pray.

Mark 1:35-38 says,

“Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He [Jesus] went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed. And Simon and those who were with Him searched for Him. When they found Him, they said to Him, “Everyone is looking for you.”

But He said to them, “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth.”

Instead of being directed by the overwhelming needs of the moment, Jesus took time to pray in a solitary place (and He didn’t even tell His disciples where He was going). After this personal prayer time, Jesus knew the heavenly Father’s perfect direction for that day, and He did exactly what needed to be done.

If prayer was that important to Jesus, it should be important to us!

Finding PEACE . . . through PRAYER!

If you haven’t been praying regularly, it’s a good idea to begin by setting aside a particular new “MEETING TIME” with God:

  • perhaps set your morning alarm a bit earlier
  • perhaps establish a habit of reading the Bible as you’re sipping your morning coffee
  • perhaps take time for the Lord during your children’s quiet time in the afternoon
  • perhaps pray in the evening, after you put your kids to bed

May God bless you with PEACE this Christmas season . . . as you take time to seek Him in the quiet place, in a time of prayer.

About ADunagan

Ann Dunagan is a longtime homeschooling mother of 7 (ages 11 to 25, with 4 graduates), an international speaker with Harvest Ministry, co-founder of orphan ministries in East Africa and India (caring for over 700 children), and author of several books including The Mission-Minded Family. With a passion for the Lord and the lost, Ann motivates families for world missions.

15 Responses to Finding Peace in God’s Presence

  1. Debra December 5, 2011 at 12:14 pm #

    Thank you Ann! I always love it when I see you are the guest post! I stumbled upon your mission-minded curriculum and have been printing it off and using it with my two girls at 3 & 5. At the least it gives me accountability in “schooling” each day, gets us in the Word, and we all learn about history! Thank you so much for a great resource! (I requested so many books at the library that she asked me if I was homeschooling!!!)

    • Ann Dunagan December 5, 2011 at 12:18 pm #

      How wonderful Debra!

      I sure appreciate your encouraging feedback. It’s so good to hear how God is drawing you into His Word, and giving you and your little ones a heart for the world.

      Thanks for commenting!!!

  2. Kristi Knifong December 1, 2011 at 4:56 pm #

    Dear Ann, Another excellent post from you! I have a question. How do you reconcile in your mind coming back to America and getting into the “Christmas Spirit” when you’ve just left Africa and know first hand all of the needs there? When I hear about all the suffering and poverty in the world, especially during this time of year, I struggle with having so much. Do you struggle with that? How do you handle the two extreme worlds you love? So appreciate your life and ministry!!

    • Ann Dunagan December 3, 2011 at 1:47 pm #

      Hello Kristi!!!

      It’s fun to hear from you, and I appreciate such good and insightful question. Usually, our family always decorates for Christmas over the weekend just after Thanksgiving. I’ve found that if I get that taken care of right away, it helps to get me “in the Christmas spirit” and helps take the pressure off of the month of December.

      A few thoughts our family shared with me in response to your question about how we balance all the HUGE needs overseas–with so much poverty and so many orphans–with all the abundance here.

      –One thing I’ve found is that just being a miserly grump “sharing depressing needy stories” at Christmastime doesn’t help anyone. The Christmas season often puts people in a generous mood, which makes it a great time to share exciting mission vision (but it doesn’t help to make people feel guilty). And it doesn’t help “poor people in Africa” if we make silly decisions, like only taking cold showers or not making Christmas cookies.

      –I’m reminded of this Christian camp that wanted to share about the need for missions during their summer retreats, so one day during each week they served only rice and beans, with some meals for “fasting.” The idea was “supposed” to make people more appreciative of our abundance, and to give the extra money saved to missions. However, the actual result was frustration among families, hungry and unsatisfied kids (and husbands), and a very negative attitude toward “missions.” It didn’t help anything.

      –My husband mentioned the Bible story where the woman poured out her perfume on the feet of Jesus. When Judas and the other disciples thought it was a “waste” (saying the ointment should have been sold and the money given to the poor) Jesus responded by complimenting the woman for her love, and saying, “The poor you will always have with you.”

      For our family, we TOTALLY enjoy Christmastime. The picture at the top of this article is from our living room this year. We enjoy simple things and special traditions, like candles and little white lights, Christmas music, making special treats, and spending time with family. We like to sit by the wood stove and crack nuts, or to watch special movies like “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “The Star of Bethlehem,” and “The Nativity Story.” I want my kids to LOVE coming home, and to have a home full of love and JOY. For us, it doesn’t clash with world missions; instead, it’s a time to remember all that Jesus did to go from heaven to this earth to save the world.

      Christmas is a GREAT time for local mission outreach. It’s a fun time to visit nursing homes and to go door-to-door. Just yesterday, the kids all went to a local city parade — and they gave away candy canes (along with a Gospel message about Christmas and “J” standing for for Jesus — about the cane representing the Bethlehem shepherds, and red stripe representing the cross and the blood of Jesus, and God’s ONE WAY of salvation, with an invitation to church). The outreach was very simple (it only took 30 minutes, and the group of five family members reached over 200 people) and it was very well received.

      If anything, seeing all the needs in Africa and India makes us so much more appreciative for everything — for yummy food, for hot water, for toilets. We are blessed.

      There is a lot of waste and extravagance–but we don’t worry about others; instead, we enjoy the season, and we remember the lost and the needy.

      We keep things simple, yet we take time to ENJOY and to CELEBRATE. We save money by drawing names for gifts among our extended family; but we take time to do things like ice-skating and Christmas caroling. And we also keep a BIG heart for doing special things for all of our loved ones overseas (with special gifts and meals for the children). Christmas is a wonderful time to share our love, and to share with others about the PURPOSE of God’s Great Commission.

      Here are quite a few articles I’ve written about how to have a MISSION-MINDED Christmas, with stories to read aloud, and ideas to remember the needs in the world.

  3. Karyl December 1, 2011 at 11:24 am #

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  4. Karyl December 1, 2011 at 7:34 am #

    Nice post. I needed the reminder to get down on my knees! Thanks!

  5. [email protected] Today December 1, 2011 at 5:08 am #

    A good reminder. Years ago we read the book The Overload Syndrome and it was liberating. One of the examples he used that really opened my eyes was the that Jesus did not heal every single person in every town he visited. When he left a village/town it would appear some things were left undone–not everyone reached, healed, encouraged, raised from the dead, you get the idea. That was huge to me to recognize that I don’t have to do everything, just stay in tune to what God is directing me to do, He will take care of the rest.

    Merry Christmas!

    • Ann Dunagan December 6, 2011 at 1:45 pm #

      Judy, this is so true, and such a good point.

      Something Jon and I have also thought about is how Jesus (while he was growing up, and in his teens, and twenties) lived very near (sometimes even within a days walking distance) to people who later the Bible says had been suffering for many years (like the woman with the issue of blood, or the man born blind). We’ve thought about how Jesus “could” have gone just a few miles to touch them, perhaps 10 or 20 years earlier . . . but He waited until God’s appointed time. It’s made us think about how GOD IS SOVEREIGN, and HE IS IN CONTROL!!! And then, like you say, there were some people who were touched by Jesus’ power and by faith in His Name, even after His resurrection (like the lame man who had been sitting for years by the gate of the temple, who Peter & John prayed for in Acts 3). God has His timing; and yes, how liberating to think that Jesus did EVERYTHING He needed to do; even if it appears that He didn’t finish everything (even Acts 1 talks about “all that Jesus began to do…” which encourages me that Jesus is even continuing to do His work today, through us!!!)

      Oh, that we would stay “in-tune” to what God is directing us to do . . . and what He’s not calling us to do. He will take care of the rest. There will always be poor people, and lost people, and orphan needs. But as we fully obey — step-by-step each day, without striving and self-effort, and without fear of stepping out when God tells us to, and without disobedience to His direction — we can know that we did our specific assignment and part in His plan.

      Thanks for sharing this, Judy!!!! Merry Christmas to you too!!!

  6. Stephanie December 1, 2011 at 1:11 am #

    Thank you for this perfect post for me. I never thought about how much Jesus was responsible for in his short life on earth. To think that I’ve outlived Jesus in regards to my time on earth, yet I feel like I’ve accomplished so little and am so overwhelmed by all I have to do. Then to remember that I’m overwhelmed because of the big “I” (that me-focus that is so easy for me to succomb to!) and forgetting that the Big Man upstairs has it all planned out for me. If I would just stop and listen long enough to experience the peace that surpasses all understanding. God, please wake me up early tomorrow morning–and every morning–to pray and spend time with you. I no longer want to be overwhelmed.

  7. Chrissy November 30, 2011 at 8:25 pm #

    Wow..I love this outlook. I never thought of that about the Lord only having 3 years to do such HUGE things. And also like you said without sinning. Oh my…thanks for sharing this. Wow. Blessings.

  8. Kim November 30, 2011 at 4:23 pm #

    Thanks so much. This was just what I needed.

  9. Kathleen November 30, 2011 at 3:52 pm #

    Ha…thanks. So timely.

  10. Lorilee @ Loving Simple November 30, 2011 at 11:28 am #

    Thanks! Great post. It is actually kind of sad that this time of year can be so stressful and have so many responsibilities. It makes it much harder to enjoy. Thanks for the reminder to just focus on Jesus. We can only look in one direction, so no wonder it is over welming when we try to focus on so many areas. Just Jesus, all we need. Praise God!

  11. Ann Dunagan November 30, 2011 at 10:46 am #

    Jill, I’m so glad you were encouraged. The part of Jesus’ life that’s really been a challenge to me is that in the midst of all the pressure (of having to save the whole world), not only did Jesus never get stressed out, but He never sinned — not even once. Even a little “not so big” slip-up would have disqualified Him from being our Savior. Oh, if we could live in that kind of daily grace and peace!!!

  12. Jill November 30, 2011 at 8:36 am #

    Thank you for this post! It JUST dawned on me yesterday this very thing as I was in tears under the weight I felt with all my responsibilities as a mom and wife – Jesus never seemed stressed and overwhelmed despite his HUGE responsibility. What a great example, and thank you for the reminder to take it all to our Father and just to spend time with Him! I often forget, as I try to take care of everything myself…