by Noëlle Ciganek
For many years, my relationship with God was one of fear, but not the fear He wants us to have before Him, as in awe and wonder, but actual fear…I was scared of making the wrong decision(s) that would then result in His punishment. I wanted to obey Him because I feared consequences, not because I loved Him or trusted in His love for me. I tried to manipulate everything, even down to praying several “signs” for Him to give me so that I would know the right man to marry (for we all know marriage is hard enough, how much more difficult it could be if we believed we had married the wrong person!) Let’s just say that my relationship with God wasn’t one of joy and peace…it was stressful and full of “doing”.
I had no idea the “transforming by the renewing of my mind” (see Romans 12:2) He was beginning when He led me to do a study on John 15 several years ago. At first I was disappointed because it was my first shot at leading a small group but only one other girl committed. However, He used that very small group to change my life.
Abide. Today that word brings peace and joy to my soul. Previously, I had lived with the focus of doing God’s will, keeping me in a constant state of wondering, confusion and sometimes frantic decision-making. He began to show me that His will for me is not to “do”, but to “be”, or “abide in Him”. “Abide in Me, and I will abide in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must abide in the Vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you abide in Me” (John 15:4). Did you catch that? We can’t even bear the fruit (see Galatians 5:22-23) that He requires of us…He tells us that is His responsibility. Our job is to abide!! Wow! And then He promises that as we abide in His love, He will make our joy complete (John 15:11).
So, what does it mean to abide? Abiding is not a physical state of being. It is a place where your heart, your mind, and your soul are resting in the assurance that He loves you and that He is enough. Abiding is not dependent on your circumstances, but keeps you in a place of deep trust and peace despite your circumstances. As we abide, He reveals Himself to us, and only then do we begin to know what He wants us to do. To do without the abiding is to do in vain. Effective “doing for God” is merely a manifestation of our first abiding in Him! I love that! Abiding allows me to enjoy the presence of my Savior without the fear of disobedience and the consequences of poor choices.
In John 15, Jesus describes the relationship between the vine and its branches, a comparison that resonated with the disciples. Personally, God gave me the picture of a pregnant woman. The baby merely abides in its mother, but the mother also abides in the baby by giving the baby life-giving blood and food. As we abide in Christ, He fills us with His Spirit and nourishes us, giving us life!
Do not be discouraged if you have not experienced the state of abiding Jesus describes. I had not until I asked Him to take me to that place with Him! And He most surely will, for that is His will for you! I have also learned it can be a choice to abide in Him…I can choose to fret or complain, or I can choose to abide in His perfect love. Of course, the more I do abide, the more I want to do so and remain there! Additionally, do not be hard on yourself if you find yourself in and out of abiding…as long as we are here on earth, we will feel the pull of our flesh. But always pray that He will keep you there! For even “if we are faithless, He will remain faithful, for He cannot disown Himself” (2 Timothy 2:13) and “He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23). Praise Him and enjoy the beautiful place of abiding!!