Gain heart focus by praying Scripture out loud:
O God, You are my God; today I seek after You in earnest. My soul is so thirsty for You and my flesh is weak. I feel like I’m living in a dry and weary place where there is no water. For that reason, I will look up to You. I will focus on Your power and Your glory. I know that Your love is better than my own life, so I’m going to choose to praise You today. I will speak good of Your name as long as I live. I will speak Your name and lift up my hands to praise You. I know that my soul is more satisfied with You than with fat and rich food. My mouth will praise You today with joyful lips! (Adapted from Psalm 63:1–11) O God, you are my God; early will I seek you: my soul thirsts for you, my flesh longs for you in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is…my soul follows hard after you.
Psalm 63:1, 8, AKJV
John didn’t have any trouble loving Jesus. He was different from the other eleven who walked closely with Christ. Beyond journaling the facts of walking with Christ, his pen recorded the feelings.
“For God so loved the world…”
“The Father loves the Son.”
“Jesus loved Martha.”
“Love one another.”
“Remain in my love.”
It’s not just the use of the word love that proves John had learned to love. It’s evident in the way he interacted so intimately with Jesus and how careful he was to include these gentle nuances in his writing. For example, at the Last Supper we find him leaning against Jesus. Comfortably. Intimately. John 13:23 says he was reclining at the table next to Jesus. Several versions actually say that he was leaning on Jesus’s bosom!
Think about the incredible intimacy it takes to lean on someone’s chest. You have to know how that person feels about you to take the risk and lean in. And John knew how Jesus felt.
He knew Jesus loved him.
Five times he referred to himself in the book of John as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”
Do you know that Jesus loves you?
The girls I counsel whose hearts are far from God often consider themselves unlovable. Maybe they haven’t been loved well by their parents. Maybe they have wounds from a guy who masked his abuse or neglect with the careless use of the word love. Maybe they have sinned repeatedly and can’t forgive themselves. Whatever the case may be, a reluctance to pursue God—to lean up against Him—might be rooted in the lie that you are not lovable.
That’s what happened to Kaylie. Oh, she was in a relationship with Jesus and even called Him her Savior, but couldn’t get herself to lean in to rest on His chest. That all changed at one of my retreats.
One morning, our worship leader Stephanie Peters-Martinez led us in singing “The More I Seek You.” The lyrics remind me of the intimate interaction between John and Jesus at the Last Supper: “I wanna … lay back against you and breathe, / hear your heartbeat.”
Stephanie stopped us and invited us to figuratively lie back against Jesus’s chest and listen to His heartbeat. It was a warm and wonderful experience for most of us.
Not for Kaylie.
She was immediately reluctant.
Panic set in. Tears flowed.
Lean against Him?
That didn’t sound safe to her.
While the rest of us relaxed on the ground, leaned against the wall, or sat with our heads on the table, Kaylie was assaulted by memories of abuse. As she later told me, years earlier she’d been abused by a man, and she was having a hard time separating God from her abuser. She could not fathom that Jesus—being male—would be safe to lean against. What’s more, Kaylie had begun to believe she wasn’t lovable. Somehow, her spirit mustered up the courage to ask God about it.
Do You really love me? If You do, please show me that I can trust You.
That’s all she could whisper in her brief prayer.
It was enough.
The Holy Spirit was just waiting for the invitation to rescue her heart.
That evening, we took the thirty-five participants of this retreat to my Uncle Ron’s farm, where he used his beautiful horse Willard to share a spiritual truth with us.
My uncle explained that you can’t perform elegant and powerful circles, flying lead changes, run downs, and sliding stops unless the horse is completely in tune with and in submission to the rider. Then we watched in awe while these decorated Quarter Horse reining competitors, Ron Johnson and Willard, moved as one. The crowd-pleasing spin at the end of his demonstration prompted eruptions of applause and praise as we witnessed the unity of the two and considered how this applied to our own submission to God.
My uncle jumped off the stallion. Willard stood before us breathing hard, nostrils flaring from the workout. Fifteen hundred pounds of athletic muscle and sweat glistened in the light. He stood with his feet firmly planted and still. Surrendered to his rider.
My eyes well up with tears as I think of what happened next, as I consider how the Holy Spirit orchestrated our trip that night without us even realizing. How hard He was chasing down my friend.
As if on cue, the stallion opened his mouth and flicked out his tongue. The small audience gasped in unison. His tongue was clearly torn in two.
“Willard,” my uncle explained, “is a survivor of abuse.”
It was then that Kaylie’s soul leaned toward the Spirit.
My Uncle Ron continued, “When I first got him, I didn’t think we’d ever be able to compete. He wouldn’t let me so much as touch his ear.” He reached up and ran his fingers roughly across the sorrel stallion’s ear. As if to prove how far they’d come, Willard leaned into him.
“Someone abused him so badly that his tongue is forked. Ripped in two.”
We were silent. Words fell away as we considered the visible scars left by the atrocity of abuse. Uncle Ron ran his hands across the horse’s face. His eyes filled with tears at the thought of what his friend had previously endured. He choked them back and whispered:
“He just needed to figure out that he could trust me.”
The floodgates opened for Kaylie. He does love me! Tears of belief flooded her heart at the realization that God loved her enough to chase her heart down on a farm in Pennsylvania. She moved past the past. Past the hiding and hurting. She stopped wondering if she could trust Him and made a decision to follow hard after Him.
The next morning when we sang “The More I Seek You,” Kaylie was the first one to lean into God. She stood up out of her chair, walked to the corner of the room, and rested against the wall. In that moment when she said yes to the invitation of her Pursuer, her soul began to follow hard after Him.
She began to give back some of the love He had sent her way. The sweet surrender on her face revealed an inner peace that my words could never adequately express to you.
Do you know that God loves you?
If you do, it’s time to rouse your soul to follow hard after Him.
John recorded these words from Jesus: “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:15, NIV). Following hard after the Lover of your soul means obeying Him. It’s choosing to return His love by going beyond surrender and actively responding to His pursuit with obedience.
If He invites you to lean against Him, you lean.
If He invites you to excuse yourself from the dating scene, you do.
If He invites you to rise early to pray, you rise.
If He invites you to trust, you trust.
If He asks you to deliver flowers to your neighbor, you select a bouquet.
If He invites you to keep a journal of your love for Him, you write.
If He invites you to Africa, you go.
If He invites you to stop serving and sit at His feet, you take a seat.
In these small and large acts of obedience, we say no to the Violent Craving that focuses on self and yes to the longing that leads to service and satisfaction.
I want to encourage you to obey Him today. It’s how we follow hard after God, how we demonstrate our love for Him. Choose just one thing and follow hard today. I can’t tell you what He wants of you. I promised you no step-by-step plans. After all, we’re trying to get lost. There’s no specific destination, so I can’t tell you where your feet should take you.
But He can.
And He probably already has.
Write Your Story
If you ask the Holy Spirit to fill you, He will. The first evidence will be conviction (John 16:8). That is to say, He will compel you to take action concerning something. If you do not obey, you will grieve Him (Ephesians 4:30) and risk putting out the fire of His presence (1 Thessalonians 5:19). Take time to leave a comment below to write about one specific area where He is convicting you to obey Him. Then do it. In this way, you will be getting lost in His pursuit by following hard after Him.
O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; To see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary. Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee. Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name. My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips:
Psalms 63:1-5 KJV
My soul followeth hard after thee: thy right hand upholdeth me.
Psalms 63:8 KJV