Grounded in the Presence of God

Oct. 8, 2021 Kim Cash Tate

Session Transcript

Kim Cash Tate: The stories that stand out in my mind of being shaken and needing to be grounded in the presence of God have to do with parenting my kids. Through the years—my kids are now in their twenties, but maybe some of you can identify—different things have come up that have been challenging, painful, and just plain hard. 

I have always said that for me, parenting is the hardest job. People post stories on social media about perfect family dynamics . . . you’ve seen those. I don’t know anything about that! But what I do know is the Lord has been faithful to use those challenging times to cultivate a close relationship between me and Him. 

That’s what I pray that you take away. As much as you may be dealing with in your world, it can also be the sweetest intimate time between you and the Lord. 

When I’m shaken, I find myself uttering a single prayer: “Lord, help me to cling to You.” I have prayed that prayer countless times over the past twenty years—in desperate times, unpredictable times, painful times, through tears. “Lord, help me to cling to You.”

Sometimes, we can’t help being overwhelmed by whatever is happening in our lives; it’s just natural. That prayer reminds me that God is with me. It reminds me that Christ is in me. My realm is the supernatural. And if you’re in Christ, your realm is the supernatural. We don’t have to cling to the circumstances; we don’t have to cling to our emotions; we don’t have to cling to our own thoughts. I can cling to God and get His perspective, watch His power at work in the circumstances. I can cling to God and let His peace, His love, His power, His faithfulness restore my soul in the midst of those trying circumstances. When I cling to God, I am grounded in His presence.

How did I start praying this prayer twenty years ago? How did this word, “cling,” transform my walk with the Lord? It’s from the book of Deuteronomy. But before I tell you how it grabbed me as I was studying one day, I have to take you way back.

I tell this story from my childhood because it is one of my most vivid memories. I was about eight years old. I had my little bag packed and stationed at the door, and I sat perched on my twin bed, waiting. Every now and then I’d hear a car engine. I would jump up and peer out of the window, hoping it belonged to my dad.

My parents divorced when I was four, and I was anticipating one of the things I cherished most: time with my dad. I loved being around my dad! He was the fun-loving parent. My mother would never ride a roller coaster; my dad was the one who coaxed me into the front car. He played sports. We shared a love of music. He has this infectious laugh. I would get so excited when I knew my dad was coming to get me. I’d be waiting.

The sun would go down, and every few minutes I’d get up and look out of the window, heart racing as a new set of headlights came down the street. Maybe that’s him. The thing I loved about him—his fun-loving nature—was the thing that caused him to forget the plans we had made, because he was engaged in something else. 

This was way before cell phones, so wherever he was, I couldn’t reach him. Tears would gather in my eyes as I realized, He’s not comingagain. More than once I wondered, Do I matter? He’s my father; we have a relationship. But I wanted to be with him, in his presence. Instead, I could feel the void. I didn’t know there was a God in heaven who saw me, who knew me before time began, who knew that one day He would draw me close to Himself.

I didn’t know the Lord growing up. My parents weren’t believers, and we rarely went to church. But I did attend a parochial school where I learned about Jesus and His life and miracles. I was captivated by Jesus.

I remember in third grade our class attended an Easter observance, and I thought about Jesus hanging on the cross, nails piercing His hands and feet. I wept in the pews, wondering how something so awful could happen to someone so good. By God’s grace, I never doubted that Jesus was the Son of God, never doubted that He died and rose again. I just didn’t know what it had to do with me!

So my life continued on without the presence of God. I went to college at the University of Maryland and George Washington for law school. My plan was to stay in the D.C. area and practice law there for the rest of my life. But during law school I started dating a man named Bill Tate. We were graduating at the same time, May 1991. He was getting a Ph.D. in math education and got an offer from the top school in his field—the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

By this time we were talking about marriage, but I’m sorry, there was no way I was moving to Wisconsin! I loved my home. I loved the culture and diversity in D.C. So, “You know what, Bill? I love you, I thought this was going somewhere, but you do you and I’m going to do me.” With no presence of God in my life, that’s how I made decisions. “If it’s not something that I like, why would I do it?”

But God is sovereign. I didn’t know Him, but He knew me. He closed every single door in D.C. I could not get a job, and got the best job I could have gotten out of law school clerking for a federal judge in Madison. (laughter)

So Bill and I went to Madison. It was what I thought. I did not like it. But here’s the thing; that, too, was part of God’s plan. I complained to Bill every chance I got. I went home to Maryland every chance I got. In the midst of all of that, I remembered the God I learned about in grade school. I remembered that Jesus could do miracles. I said, If He can do miracles, He can get me out of Madison! (laughter) The Lord used my discontent to draw me. I was talking to Him now, asking Him to help me.

I found out that as you start to get a little taste of God’s presence, the first taste you’ll probably get is conviction. Bill and I were living together. We were engaged, had this big wedding planned for May, but I started feeling convicted about our living arrangement. I talked to Bill about it. We both knew enough to know this was not pleasing to God, but we had now been living in Madison for a year and a half. It hadn’t come up before! But the Spirit of God was at work.

Valentine’s Day was two weeks away. We kept the big May wedding but decided to get married in a private ceremony. We had two witnesses in our home on Valentine’s Day, but the main witness, the one who really mattered, was the Lord. For the first time, I made a decision for my life that involved Him.

The following year, Bill’s barber invited him to church, and I heard the gospel for the very first time. Once again, I was weeping in the pews, but this time I knew Jesus’ death had to do with me. I knew it was for me, for my sin, and I wept over my sinfulness. I wept with gratitude that I could be forgiven and saved. God didn’t get me out of Madison. We lived there for eight years—joyfully, after a time! But He saved me in Madison.

I gave my life to Jesus at twenty-seven, but you know, by twenty-seven you have a lot of convictions built up about how you want to live your life. For me, especially for my career, there was a lot that I had in my own mind planned to do. But now I had the Spirit of God indwelling me, the very presence of God within. I didn’t know how to get grounded in His presence yet, but how many of you know sometimes getting grounded means first some things need to be shaken up?

I had been raised with this in my ear: “You need to make your own money so you never have to depend on a man for anything.” That was my mother’s mantra, and in her mind, my hope was in getting a good education, building a career. So I was all in. At twenty-seven I was a civil litigator at a large firm, which meant long, unpredictable hours.

Bill and I had our first baby, our son, and God started shaking up my world. I longed to be with the baby more than being in that office. But leaving my job altogether seemed so radical! So first I reduced my hours to 80 percent, then 60 percent; but it was only the pay that went down, the hours stayed the same. (laughter)

Our daughter was born two years later. I became a partner; things were going well. But I had been seeking the Lord about what to do. One day on a long road trip, I talked to Bill about leaving the firm altogether. By the time we got home, we agreed that that’s what I would do. I felt giddy about it! This was the Lord. There was no way I would have come up with this on my own.

I was filled with joy at being led by Him into His will for my life. But then, I was actually home with two toddlers—no time to myself, no time to take a shower, definitely no time to write. I felt that God had called me to write, but whenever I would try I could not focus. I found myself feeling frustrated. I even struggled a little with my identity. When people would say, “So, what do you do?” I would say, “I’m an attorney; I’m just not practicing right now.” (laughter) You ever feel that light tap of conviction by the Holy Spirit? Like, “Cut that out!” (laughter)

The Lord renewed my mind about a whole lot during that time. One thing He used was a new radio program by this woman named Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Nancy was teaching biblical principles I had never heard that helped to ground me in the season God had called me to. This was about twenty years ago—how crazy is that? I began to embrace home as a ministry and to see it as my main ministry, and I saw the beauty and the power in it.

I’m so grateful to you, Nancy, for decades of steadfastness in calling women to freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ. (applause)

But something else happened in that season after I left my job. I had thought I’d get more time with the kids. What I didn’t expect was, I got more time with the Lord. I had been reading the Bible, but now I was studying the Bible. I got a new Bible and some colored pencils—I’m an inductive study girl—and started in Genesis chapter 1. Every day when the kids took their naps, I would sit at the kitchen table with my coffee—I do have coffee and Christ, Nancy! I’d spend a couple of hours in the Word. This became my most cherished time of the day. I was learning more deeply about people in the Bible, but even more, I was learning about the God of the Bible, seeing His love for His people, His power, His protection, His holiness, His faithfulness, His sovereignty. My love for God grew deeper as I beheld Him in the pages of Scripture.

I didn’t think of it this way at the time, but as I spent time in the Word each day, I was grounding myself in the presence of God. Whatever else was happening in my life—whatever frustrations, emotions, weariness, challenges—all of it got checked during that time. I would see, God is trustworthy. He sees me. He knows what I’m dealing with, and He is well able to handle it. Nothing is too hard for Him.

So I go through Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers—and I get to Deuteronomy. Moses and the people of Israel have spent decades in the wilderness, they’re about to enter the Promised Land. But first, Moses is reminding them how they got here, having to spend forty years in the wilderness because of Israel’s unbelief and rebellion against God. That generation had died in the wilderness; Moses is speaking to the next generation. He gives instructions from God as to how they are to live in the land and all that they are to do.

This is where I was about twenty years ago during my study of Deuteronomy, when I saw it. First, in Deuteronomy 10:20: “You shall fear the LORD your God; you shall serve Him and cling to Him.” This is the NASB version. That one word, “cling,” jumped out at me.

I kept going. Go to Deuteronomy 13:4, where Moses says, 

You shall follow the LORD your God and fear Him, and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him.

Five of those verbs make sense. Follow, yes. Of course, God’s people must follow Him; how else will they know the way? Fear Him; right, He is God. God’s people ought to have a holy and reverential fear of Him. Keep His commandments—certainly, God would expect obedience. Listen to His voice—there are so many voices competing for our attention, including our own. It’s God’s voice we must listen to. Makes sense. Serve Him definitely makes sense.

Here’s the thing: all of those things can be done from a distance. We can even follow Him from a distance, as long as you’re headed in the same direction. But then it says, “Cling to Him.” That word is not like all the others. “Cling” puts me in God’s face, glued to Him. It’s personal. It’s intimate. It’s a command from God, but to me it read as an invitation.

But it was hard to fathom. Almighty God, the God of the universe, the one who made the sun, moon, and stars, is telling me not just to cling to Him, but that I can cling to Him? That He wants me that close? All the time? It was a gift! A gift for that little girl staring out of the window waiting for her daddy. A gift for the girl who wondered if she really mattered.

That’s when I began praying, “Lord, help me to cling to You.” And for the past couple of decades, through storms and trials, season to season, He has been faithful to answer that prayer. We were created to cling, to walk intimately with our Lord, to stay in His presence. 

Adam and Eve had that perfect intimacy with God in the garden; being able to walk and talk with Him, enjoy His presence. We know what happened. The serpent, Satan, tempts Eve to eat of the one tree that had been forbidden. She eats, Adam eats, and their sin changes everything. Instead of a beautiful, personal relationship with God we see separation.

Genesis 3:8 breaks my heart. 

They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 

They hid themselves from the presence of God! They had never done such a thing, had never known such a thing.

Genesis 3:23, “Therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden.” Imagine how much that broke God’s heart. He did not create man to dwell apart from Him, but sin meant they could no longer dwell in His presence, enjoy His presence the way they had. Sin meant their world became shaky, and because each of us is born in sin, our worlds are shaky—full of turmoil, devoid of hope. We cannot get grounded apart from Christ.

But praise God for His love and mercy! Before the foundation of the world, He had a plan. He sent His Son to die on the cross for our sins, to pay the sin debt that we owe. When we believe on the name of Jesus for salvation, we are saved. We are brought into relationship with our Abba Father, and Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us. We have His presence always, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” We can stay grounded in His presence always!

I want to share three vital ways I have learned to cling to God, three vital ways to stay grounded in His presence.

One, we have to stay in His Word. We might even have to change how we view time in His Word—not as an obligation, but I get to spend time with the Lord. I get to spend time in His presence as I behold Him in Scripture! Your soul stays grounded as you’re reminded who He is, reminded how great He is; greater than whatever may be causing upheaval in your life.

I love that God says dozens of times in His Word, “I am with you.” He knows how much we need to stay grounded in His presence. Just reading those words will settle your soul and invigorate your spirit.

We see this displayed beautifully with Joshua. Moses, the leader of Israel, had died. Joshua had been especially close to him during those forty years in the wilderness. The Bible says he had been the attendant of Moses from his youth. 

Joshua was also a warrior. When Amalek fought Israel in Exodus 17, you might be familiar with Moses having the staff of God in his hand. Whenever he raises the staff, Israel is winning; when he lowers the staff, Amalek is winning. So Aaron and Hur have to stand on either side of Moses and keep his hands lifted. But it was Joshua who was actually doing the fighting.

In Exodus 24, when God told Moses to come up to Mount Sinai to receive the commandments, Moses told Aaron, Hur, and the elders, “You all stay right here; I’ll be back.” But Joshua was the one that he brought with him up to a certain point (Exodus 24:13). Joshua was the only one who got to see a little bit more on that remarkable, sacred occasion.

In Numbers 13, when God told Moses to send twelve men, one from each tribe, to spy out the land God had promised, Moses chose Joshua to be one of those spies. Ten of the spies were shaken by what they saw (giants in the land). Instead of grounding themselves in the presence of God, they grumbled in His presence and railed against God. Joshua, along with Caleb, brought the good report. They said this in Numbers 14:7–9, 

The land which we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. If the LORD is pleased with us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us—a land which flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the LORD; and do not fear the people of the land, for they will be our prey. Their protection has been removed from them, and the LORD is with us; do not fear them. 

The Lord is with us. They knew that meant everything. They grounded themselves in the presence of God. God rewarded the faith of Joshua and Caleb. They would be the only ones in their generation to enter the promised land. What’s more, Joshua found out he would be the one to lead them.

All of this is important to understand about Joshua. He was a man of great faith, a strong leader. He wasn’t shaken about the battle against Amalek. He wasn’t shaken about giants in the land. But Moses’s death? That shook him. It wasn’t a sudden death; he knew it was coming. But you don’t know beforehand how much grief will overtake you . . . or fear, or disappointment, or pain, or heartbreak. You don’t know how much you’ll be shaken by a circumstance until you’re in it, until you’re overwhelmed by it and don’t know what to do, don’t know how you’ll go on. Maybe you even want to give up.

The Lord knows our human frame. He knows we can be shaken. He was gracious and started preparing Joshua before Moses died. Near the end of Deuteronomy Moses and God told Joshua to be strong and courageous and that God would be with him. I’m sure Joshua was like, “Right. You know I know! I was saying that back after the spy mission. I told them that!” But again, you don’t realize it until you’re in the situation.

So Moses dies, the people weep and mourn for thirty days. Deuteronomy ends with a tribute to Moses. But now it’s time to move on, time to enter the Promised Land.

The next book in the Bible is Joshua. It chronicles how they conquered the people in the land and took possession of the land. But when we turn to the book of Joshua, we don’t see warrior Joshua. We don’t see someone poised for battle, readying the troops. “Let’s go!” We see someone who desperately needs the Lord’s presence.

Here’s how it begins in Joshua 1:1–2. 

Now it came about after the death of Moses, the servant of the LORD, that the LORD spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’s servant, saying, "Moses my servant is dead; now arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving them, to the sons of Israel.” 

“Moses my servant is dead.” The first thing the Lord says to Joshua is something he already knows, but it’s as if God is putting a hand to his shoulder, comforting a man who is still grieving, still shaken. God reminds him of the mission. Then He says in verse 5,

Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you.

Joshua knew this truth, but oh, how it had to minister in this moment! The comfort, the reassurance. “Moses is no longer with you, but I will be with you.”

God then tells Joshua the words we love, the words we see on wall art and coffee mugs and T-shirts. He repeats it three times. Verse 6, “Be strong and courageous.” Verse 7, “Be strong and very courageous.” Verse 9, “Be strong and courageous.”

But how is Joshua—or any of us—able to be strong and courageous? We have to look at what comes before and after those verses. In verse 5 God says, “I will be with you.” Verse 9, 

Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go. 

That’s how Joshua would get grounded and stay grounded, knowing the Lord was with him.

Passages like this keep us grounded in the presence of the Lord. You’re reminded, He is with me. We know that Jesus said, “I am with you always.” When you know the Lord is with you, you don’t have to tremble or be dismayed about the situation, the diagnosis, the heartache, the hardship, the closed door, whatever it may be, because the Lord is with you. Just that one truth, that He’s with you, means a million things. It means everything.

So, stay grounded in His presence by first staying in the Word.

Number two, stay talking to the Lord. I could have said, “Stay praying.” But we attach our own ideas of formality with prayer and end up thinking it needs to be a certain time, place, posture. If you are a believer in Christ, the Lord is with you all the time, and you can talk to Him all the time.

I talk to the Lord about everything. When I’m studying His Word, I’m asking for understanding. When I’m weary, “Lord, I’m tired. I know I’m supposed to do x, y, and z. Please give me strength.” When I need wisdom . . . Somebody might be talking to me; I’m talking to the Lord about what to say in response. Anybody else ask the Lord what to cook for dinner? (laughter) 

First Thessalonians 5:17 says, “Pray without ceasing,” which can sort of seem impossible, but this is how we pray without ceasing, taking everything to the Lord. When prayer is your lifestyle, you will stay grounded. If you’re in the habit of taking everyday frustrations and disappointments to the Lord, when you encounter a big trial, you already know where you’re going: straight to His presence.

Hannah is such a beautiful example of this in 1 Samuel, chapter 1. She was married to Elkanah, but Elkanah had two wives: Hannah and Peninnah. Peninnah had sons and daughters by Elkanah; Hannah had no children.

Also, Hannah was the one Elkanah loved. He openly favored her. So you already know how that made Peninnah feel! First Samuel 1:6 says, “Peninnah would provoke Hannah bitterly to irritate her.”

One year they all go up to Shiloh on their yearly trip to worship and sacrifice to God, but on this particular trip, Hannah cannot take it anymore. Peninnah’s provoking her; Hannah is weeping; she can’t eat. She gets up and goes to the house of God. It says this in 1 Samuel 1:10, “She, greatly distressed, prayed to the LORD and wept bitterly.”

This is how we get grounded! Just laying it all out before the Lord. Take your heartache and your tears to the Lord. He cares for you. He wants to hear from you.

Hannah asked the Lord for a son, saying she would give him to the Lord. She prayed silently but so fervently that Eli the priest thought she might be drunk. But Hannah said this in verse 15: “No, my lord. I am a woman oppressed in spirit; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have poured out my soul before the LORD.”

When was the last time you poured out your soul before the Lord? No one understands you like He does. No one loves you like He does. Elkanah loved Hannah, but there was nothing he could do for her in that moment. She needed the peace, power, comfort, and joy of the Lord. He is the only one who can restore our souls.

Look what happened. After this time of lingering in the Lord’s presence, pouring out her soul, it says in verse 18, “So the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.” She didn’t know whether God would answer her prayer! God did eventually give her a son, but right then it was not answered prayer that grounded her. Just being in His presence grounded her very soul.

I really want us to get this. We don’t need things around us to change in order to get grounded. We don’t get grounded because God answered a prayer. You can get grounded as you wait, because of the power of His presence.

Hannah wasn’t the only one who determined to get away from what was happening around her and get in the presence of God alone. Jesus did this as well. Luke 5:15–16: “But the news about Him was spreading even farther, and large crowds were gathering to hear Him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.”

He did this after He multiplied the bread and the fish and fed thousands. It says in Matthew 14:22–23, “Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away. After He sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was alone there.”

What an example for us! We live in an age where people crave more and more followers and bigger platforms. Do we consider what this may be doing to our souls? Do we take the time to get alone with the Lord? If our Lord and Savior needed time alone in the presence of the Father when He walked this earth, how much more do we?

One more, number three. We stay grounded in the presence of God when we stay praising and giving thanks. Back to 1 Thessalonians 5, this time verses 16–18: 

Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

“Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks.” These are all-the-time actions that bring you into the presence of God. We’ve talked about prayer, but all three are powerful ways to stay grounded in any situation. 

Have you ever noticed, when you start praising and giving God thanks, your whole temperament changes? I can be in tears and say, “Lord, this is hard. I don’t understand what’s happening. I don’t understand why You’re not answering my prayer. But I praise You because You are faithful, and I thank You that You’ll work this, too, for good.” And my spirit is lifted! Right there, you get grounded in the presence of God, dwelling on who He is and what He has promised.

Rejoice with worship music, like Shane and Shane. It’s an awesome way to ground yourself in the presence of God.

It says, “This is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” It brings glory to God when we rejoice and give thanks and pray, but the Lord knows it’s also good for our own souls. He knows it keeps us grounded in His presence, which is where we need to be. That’s really the heart of this message. 

It’s not so much, Okay, something has happened, and now I need to get grounded in the presence of the Lord. No. It’s about staying grounded in the presence of the Lord. It doesn’t mean you won’t be shaken by circumstances, but you’ll know how to get grounded when you are shaken. You will know how to run to the presence of the Lord. Even then, you might find yourself uttering the prayer I’ve prayed for years: “Lord, help me to cling to You.”

I want us to pray right now. I just want us to go into the presence of the Lord, because we need Him, amen? We need Him. I don’t know if anybody is shaken by anything right now, if you came here today shaken by something happening in your life, in your home, with someone you know. But I would guess we’re all dealing with something. Let us seek the Lord.

Dear Lord, we thank You and praise You because You are with us. Thank You, Lord God, that in Christ, You are in us always. You are with us always. But Lord, sometimes we need to be reminded that we need to draw near to You. You’re with us, but are we with You? 

So I pray, Lord God, that for all of us in this room and on the livestream, that You would cause us to draw near to You. Give us hearts that want to stay grounded in Your presence, to stay in Your Word, to behold You in Scripture. Let us look at that as time that we get to delight ourselves in You, see Your goodness every day, see Your faithfulness every day, be reminded of Your power every day through Your Word. Let that be a time that we cherish, Lord.

I pray that we would stay grounded by talking to You, just unloading our cares, as Hannah did; that we would know there’s nothing too big and nothing too small. You care about it all. If You care about the sparrow that has fallen to the ground, You care about the things that concern us. So Lord, I pray that we would make it our lifestyle to pray to You, to look to You, to talk to You—even if it’s not a burden or a care. Lord, to just talk to You about our day, to talk to You about decisions we need to make, to get Your thoughts on the matter, be led by Your Spirit. 

I pray, Lord, that we would stay praising You and giving thanks in everything. We might not be thankful for the thing that is happening in our lives, but we can be thankful for who You are. We can be thankful that we are saved and will spend eternity with You. We can get an eternal perspective as we deal with earthly situations, and we can give You praise that we don’t have to cling to these situations. We can cling to You and know that You are at work, that You love us, and that You will work all things together for good. We can thank You and praise You for that in the circumstances.

So Lord, give us hearts that desire to cling to You always, hearts that stay grounded in Your presence. We thank You, Lord, that You love us and that You care for us. We give You all the praise and the glory, in Jesus’ name, amen.