James E. Woods

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What To Do When Your Spirit Is Inwardly Disturbed


What To Do When Your Spirit Is Inwardly Disturbed

I had no rest in my spirit, because I found not Titus my brother: but taking my leave of them, I went from thence into Macedonia.
— 2 Corinthians 2:13

Many years ago, I developed an uneasy feeling about a longtime member of our team who worked in a leadership position in our ministry. However, because this person had always been faithful during his years with our organization, I tried to shrug off this uneasiness and ignore what I was feeling. Naturally speaking, there was no reason for me to be suspicious of him or to question his activities. All outward signs said he was doing an excellent job; yet I kept getting a gnawing feeling in my spirit that I should no longer trust him. To put it simply, I was deeply troubled on the inside and knew something was wrong.

When an occasion would arise for this man and me to be together, I’d look deeply into his eyes when he spoke to see if I could detect whether there was something he was trying to hide. When he spoke, I’d listen carefully to his words to see if there was anything misleading in what he told me. I took notice of his gestures, trying to ascertain whether or not he was acting nervous in my presence because he had something to hide. From all outward signs, everything seemed normal — yet inwardly I was still extremely disturbed.

I would tell Denise, “I don’t know what it is, but I sense that something is wrong with that person. Is God speaking to my spirit, or am I just being suspicious and untrusting of someone who has been faithful for a long time?” Because I could never put my finger on anything this man had done wrong, I decided that I was the problem — that I was being overly suspicious and needed to stop being so skeptical and wary of this devoted employee.

For the next year, I tried hard to shake off those uneasy feelings, but I just couldn’t do it. Even though I couldn’t identify a specific problem, I inwardly knew that things on the surface were not as they really seemed concerning this employee.

 

After a year of struggling with this issue, I discovered that this man had been acting fraudulently on many fronts. It wasn’t just a case of someone doing something wrong by accident; this was purposeful wrongdoing and manipulation of the truth for his own advantage. He had been conniving and deliberately misleading. I was shocked when I discovered the length and breadth he had gone to deceive me and our other leaders.

By the time I made my discovery of what this employee had been doing, severe damage had already been done in that department of our organization. But the truth is, the Holy Spirit had been warning me of the problem for a very long time. That inward uneasiness I had experienced was His warning to me to back away from this man!

God’s Spirit was trying to save me from the troubles produced by this employee who was conspiring against the work of the Gospel. If I had listened to my heart and followed what I sensed on the inside, I could have avoided the pain this man tried to bring about in our lives. I praise God that when I finally made this discovery, I had the courage to take fast action and terminate this attack!

From this experience that took place so many years ago, I learned the important lesson of paying attention when my spirit is inwardly disturbed. Very often this is God’s way of giving us an alert signal that something is not right or that something is not as it seems on the surface.

That’s why you must learn to pay attention when your spirit is inwardly troubled. Set aside some time to spend with the Lord, and ask the Holy Spirit to help you quiet your mind and emotions so He can reveal to you anything you need to know about the situation. Back up and take a good look at what is happening around you, and be willing to see the truth — even if it is something you’d rather not acknowledge! If you find that everything is fine, you can then move forward with the confidence that you did your homework. But if you find out that something is wrong, you’ll be thankful you listened to your spirit and slowed down so you could make this discovery in order to deal with it — for your sake and the sake of others who may be adversely affected by it!

So ask yourself these questions:

  • Have you ever had an inward uneasiness or a lack of peace that you later wished you hadn’t ignored?
  • Can you think of a time when the Holy Spirit tried to warn you of a problem, but you didn’t listen to your heart and therefore ended up with a problem that could have been avoided?
  • Have you discovered that God is often speaking to you when you have a lack of peace in your heart — and that He is trying to tell you to back up and slow down, to take a more cautious approach to what you are doing?

This kind of inward disturbance must be what Paul experienced when he came to the city of Troas and didn’t find Titus waiting for him there. Although this exact event isn’t recorded in the book of Acts, Paul mentioned it in his second letter to the Corinthian church. On one of his missionary journeys, Paul came to Troas, expecting to find Titus waiting for him. Paul was so taken aback that Titus wasn’t there that he wrote, “I had no rest in my spirit, because I found not Titus my brother: but taking my leave of them, I went from thence into Macedonia” (2 Corinthians 2:13).

The word “rest” that Paul used in this verse comes from the Greek word anesis, which means to let up, to relax, to stop being stressed, or to find relief. In the Greek world, this word anesis could denote the release of a bowstring that had been under great pressure. Hence, it suggests the idea of relief. When used on a personal level, the word anesis depicts a person who has been under some type of pressure for a long time but has suddenly found a release from that pressure. You could say that this person has decided he is going to shake off and let go of whatever that has been bothering him or the pressure he has been under.

However, Paul told us he could not shake off what he was inwardly feeling in his spirit. He was so restless or inwardly disturbed that he immediately left Troas and went on to Macedonia to search for his dear friend Titus. The phrase “taking my leave of them” is very strong in the Greek. It lets us know that Paul didn’t take a long time to respond to this inward disturbance in his spirit; rather, he took it as a God-given signal that something wasn’t right. Hence, Paul bade the believers in Troas farewell and quickly traveled into Macedonia to seek out his missing ministry friend.

Unlike my own scenario that I just related to you, the apostle Paul listened to his spirit. He knew that if he was inwardly disturbed, it could be a warning sign that something was wrong. Thus, he responded with urgency and took appropriate action when he had this kind of inner witness. How I wish I had done the same thing years ago! If I had listened to what my spirit was telling me, I could have avoided the many troubles that leader tried to create for me and for our ministry.

In light of all this, Second Corinthians 2:13 could be paraphrased:

“Regardless of how hard I tried to shake off a sense of inward disturbance, in my spirit I knew something was wrong. I tried to shake it off and let it go, but inwardly, I knew things were not right.”

As believers, we must learn to pay attention to the lack of peace we feel in our spirits. Sometimes that lack of peace or inward disturbance is God’s way of alerting us to something important or of telling us that something isn’t right. God lovingly tries to spare us from problems and catastrophes. However, if we don’t

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pay attention to the still, small voice in our hearts when the Holy Spirit tenderly speaks to us, we will end up with troubles that could have been altogether avoided or corrected before they got out of hand.

God is faithful to speak to you — but His voice can often be heard only by what you sense in your own heart. If you sense peace in your heart, it could be the Holy Spirit telling you, “You have a green light, so you can proceed.” But if you have a lack of peace or an inward disturbance, never forget that it could be God’s way of saying “Yellow light, so proceed with caution.” Or He may even be telling you, “Red alert! Stop! Something is wrong!”

Don’t make the mistake I made many years ago by ignoring that lack of peace in your heart. It will be far better for you if you take a little time to back up, slow down, and find out why you’re feeling uneasy on the inside. If you find that everything is all right, you will then be able to move forward with assurance. But if you learn that something is not right, you’ll be so thankful that you listened to your heart and got things in order before you proceeded any further and damage was done!

MY PRAYER FOR TODAY


F
ather, I thank You for Your Spirit, who is so faithful to alert me when things are not right. Please forgive me for the many times You tried to warn and help me, but I ignored Your voice and found myself in a mess I could have avoided. From this day forward, I am asking You to help me become more sensitive to my spirit. Help me pay attention to the peace or the lack of peace I inwardly sense so I can respond appropriately when You are trying to warn me that something isn’t the way it should be.

I pray this in Jesus’ name!

MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY


I confess that I am sensitive to the Spirit of God. When He speaks to my heart, I quickly respond to Him and obey His instructions. I hear His voice indicating when I have God’s green light to move ahead; therefore, I step out in faith. When I sense God’s yellow light to move slowly and with caution, I am careful and cautious. When my spirit is inwardly disturbed and I have no peace, I know that this is God’s red light — one of the ways He alerts me that something is not right. Because I am sensitive to what God is telling me in my spirit, I am able to move forward with confidence that I am not going to make a mistake!

I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!

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QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER

  1. Can you think of a time when you were inwardly disturbed but you ignored it and then later found out it was God trying to warn you about something? When was that, and what happened?
  2. What did you learn from that experience when you ignored what you sensed in your spirit?
  3. When you sense an inward disturbance, a lack of peace, or a restlessness in your spirit, how should you respond to it?

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