The serenely peaceful and ruggedly majestic North Shore of Lake Superior inspires me to praise and worship the One who created its magnificent beauty. This sanctuary that my husband Kent and I call our second home is our place of refuge where we lose ourselves in God’s miraculous creation. We move away from the internal and external pressures of change and challenge that distract us, and spend precious, uninterrupted, intimate time with the Lord. Here in his presence, whether night or day, we experience a peace that surpasses our understanding as we pray and meditate on God’s Word, reflect on his all-sufficient grace and thank him for his unfailing faithfulness. We praise him in the peace of his holy presence from the sanctuary of our souls.
At night, when our circumstances can make the hours seem endless, isn’t it comforting to know he is waiting for his children to spend precious time with him? We can feel discouraged and destitute in the darkness. But when we are still before God and “rest in the waiting,” we can hear his tender love song. This may be his voice of Scripture, accompanied by a new melody with breathtakingly beautiful harmony or a familiar beloved hymn or chorus. These songs in the night have inspired many songs I’ve written back to him in response to his lovingkindness.
The song he gives us is so deeply and intimately personal; it’s whatever we need most at the time. When we’re unsettled, troubled or afraid, he gives us comforting strains of peace; a meaningful message and soothing melody. Perhaps the song is set to his lyrics in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” He reminds us that we have a choice to not let our hearts be troubled or afraid. We can give in to worldly pressures and false hopes that create doubt and despair, or open our hearts to the peace he alone offers.
Maybe we’ve lost a loved one and are sick with loneliness. Our Emmanuel sings a song of promise in the peace of our sanctuary, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
Are we sometimes ashamed because of unconfessed sin or an unforgiving spirit? As we confess our weakness and pour out our hearts to him, his response in a sweet refrain may be, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
We may be so exhausted we can’t even articulate our prayers. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). We deeply breathe a cleansing sigh of gratitude and renewed assurance.
While waiting on the Lord for his response, it can be so very hard to be patient. My husband and I have prayed for the healing and restoration of peace and joy for our daughter Jody since she became so desperately mentally ill eighteen years ago. His answer remains, “Wait.” And we are called to remain faithful. Diligent in prayer. Content and contrite in spirit. This is never easy, night or day, and we often become frustrated and despondent. We need to daily seek God’s mercy and grace to sustain us. It may be easier to praise and follow him when our days are bright and infused with hope. But when times are difficult and we obediently follow him through the night, our praise to him can be deeper, sweeter, and more intensely passionate.
Learn to recognize his voice by being immersed in his Word and faithful in prayer as we listen for his guidance. Before going to sleep at night, meditate on God’s Word. Read slowly and repeatedly a favorite portion of Scripture or a comforting verse that gives you peace. It may play over and over in your heart during the night. You can awaken refreshed and renewed, praising God as David did in Psalm 5:3, “In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.”
There is “joy in the morning” (Psalm 30:5) because his song is with us at night, and joy through the day because his love feeds and fills our hearts and souls. Trusting him with every step encourages confidence and hope in our journey! He alone is our one true light that shines upon our path to guide us. Zephaniah 3:17 is a mighty promise that “the Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” That must be some kind of music!
Where is your sanctuary? It can be anywhere and everywhere we meet the Lord. In the intimate sanctuary of his presence, may we each sing and pray back to our God with soulful gratitude, praise and worship!
Mary Beth Carlson is a composer, recording artist, author, inspirational speaker and former Teacher of the Year. She performs nationally as a pianist and speaker. She has produced and recorded twenty-six albums of piano and orchestral music.
Her most recent release is Sanctuary … inspiring songs of peace, praise & worship. Available at: www.marybethcarlson.com