Why you need God’s presence in the midst of a busy season

December 3, 2019

If you’re like me, your calendar was hemorrhaging long before the holidays showed up. In fact, the pace we keep is a cultural phenomenon of sorts—one that most of us aren’t equipped to handle well.

Our ever-present phones make us daily, instantaneously available to hundreds, even thousands, of people. Our “commuter-style community”—since friends and family no longer live together in the same village or neighborhood—demands Herculean time and effort. (You know that coffee date with your friend? The one that took you 17 texts and three reschedules and a 45-minute drive? Case in point.)

Electricity allows us to stay up long past sundown (when our bodies are naturally wired for sleep), and a stealth little lie tells us that the more we do, the more we’re worth. As if that’s not enough, our world is under the curse of sin, so our work is difficult, people expect more of us than we can deliver, and sudden crises make wreckage of our well-plotted calendars.

Quieting my anxious heart

In the past, I dealt with this reality in a variety of unhealthy ways—two of which were as Lady Failure (“Everyone expects so much of me, I can never measure up!”) and Self-sufficient Savior (“I’m their only hope! I have to save them!”). My attempts to satisfy endless expectations and demands only succeeded in making me anxious, resentful, or withdrawn. I was keeping a lot of people happy, I was getting a lot done, but I was regularly running on fumes emotionally and physically.

But in recent years, I’ve been learning the skill of quieting myself in God’s presence, of perceiving him with me smack-dab in the middle of life’s pressures. This isn’t pie-in-the-sky talk. This is rubber-meets-the-road truth that is changing the way I think and feel and act. You’re already familiar with these, but take another look at a few of the Scriptures that talk about God’s “with-ness”:

“God with us” is our good, our confidence, our peace, and our salvation. We may not be able to slow life down to a snail’s pace; we may not be able to circumvent exhaustion or avoid pain—but we absolutely can keep a quiet heart when we live in the keen awareness of God’s presence.

How I’m learning to be aware of God’s presence

Let me give you an example of how I’m learning to do this on a daily basis. I typically wake in the morning with my mind racing through all the messages I haven’t returned, the work deadline ahead, the places we need to be today, the people we’ll be connecting with. Then there’s the inevitable: Do I have snacks for my son’s school event? What gift am I going to take to the shower? Did I fill out that paperwork for my next doctor’s appointment?

Perhaps in our own acceptance of weakness and dependence, we will show someone else how to go to God.

Just as my stomach begins to tie itself into a nice little knot, I stop and remind myself that God is with me. I say to him, “God, thank you for being with me and giving me everything I need in order to do what YOU want me to do today.” Then I thank him for a few simple things: the time with sweet friends last night, my husband’s amazing forgiveness, the anticipation of my morning cup of coffee. Finally, I bring a Scripture to mind. This isn’t the deeper Bible study I’ll get to later today, but it’s still meaningful truth that directs my heart to God.

And now? Now I can sense him with me, and the weight of today no longer rests on my shoulders—it’s on his, where it belongs. Inevitably, I’ll need to revisit this practice (prayer, gratitude, truth) many times throughout my day. But that in itself is a beautiful thing, is it not? We never stop needing him. And the more we go to him, the greater our peace and joy.

Here’s another simple way I quiet myself: I follow Elisabeth Elliot’s advice to “do the next thing.” If I knew everything that the month will require of me, I’d probably just stay in bed with the sheets pulled over my head. But I’ve been given extraordinary provision to do what’s right in front of me, this very moment. I can wash another sink of dishes, have a difficult conversation, or drive through traffic to another doctor’s appointment—because God is with me, and he has everything I need.

I love how Andrew Murray wrote of this in his book Humility: “The life God bestows is imparted not once for all but each moment by the unceasing operation of His mighty power. Humility, the place of entire dependence upon God, is from the very nature of things the first duty and the highest virtue of His creatures.”

So when my day finally comes to a close, I can leave unfinished business at the feet of my Lord, trusting that he is God and I am not. Maybe I let someone down (someone I really wanted to care for). Maybe my phone is still full of unreturned messages. Maybe my to-do list is laughing at me. Can I rest in that? Do I trust that God can work out these tasks and these relationships far better than I can?

How about you? Is someone deeply disappointed in you for not being available to them right now? Do you have more tasks than you do time? We are gloriously limited creatures—and it is a difficult but beautiful thing to be weak, to be utterly dependent upon the One who “bears our burdens day after day” (Psa. 68:19). Perhaps in our own acceptance of weakness and dependence, we will show someone else how to go to God.

As we seek the presence of Jesus, our limitations are not laziness, nor are they a means of self-preservation. Rather, they are divine invitations to experience the Spirit’s power in and through us. We are called to lovingly lay down our lives for others, but the life we lay down must flow from Christ in us—and not out of guilt or people-pleasing or self-sufficiency. When we practice God’s presence and ask him for moment-by-moment wisdom to “do the next thing,” we get to experience his joy—and his joy is our strength (Neh. 8:10)! On the contrary, when we frantically try to “do ALL the things” and keep everyone happy, we ultimately fail at loving people well and redeeming the time.

I have many miles to go in learning how to abide in God’s presence in the pressures of life, but I’m so grateful for the journey. And it’s liberating to finally understand that busyness isn’t my enemy; it’s an opportunity to turn to God and experience his nearness.

“Do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not be afraid, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you; I will help you;
I will hold on to you with my righteous right hand.” —Isaiah 41:10

Colleen Chao

Colleen Elisabeth Chao is a freelance editor and the author of the children’s book on suffering, Out of the Shadow World. She blogs about God's kindness to her through the unexpected chapters of her story, including singleness, depression, and cancer. She makes her home in Southern California with her husband Eddie and … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24