And as many as honestly desire to be heirs of this holy power and kingdom, patiently wait till you feel that move in you which is of that pure nature, and having felt it alive in you, rejoice in it with hope and faith, and keep therein, and be not discouraged, because of the littleness of it in your present sight, neither do you judge and measure it thereby; for you know not what power it has with God, and how precious it is in His sight; and what it will obtain for you at His hands in the time of need, you have not yet proved, nor can you, while you have things greater in your thoughts than it to run to: The power of holiness and truth in the inward parts is not known but in the depth, when the fire of wrath comes upon all vain hopes and hypocritical confidence, when all that is without a man is removed far away; when all friends and acquaintance are become farther off than strangers, and whatever thing the creature seeks to for comfort, turns against him, and adds to his grief; then is known the power of holiness and truth in heart with God, and a clean conscience will speak peace; and none can take it away from you, if you abide but in it: He that has proved it commends it to you, who has been stripped of all, that you might learn and know the treasure of life, and holiness with God. Wherefore judge not that which is holier and lower than yourselves, but let that which is just and holy, judge that which is above it in you, which is not of that nature.
James Nayler, A Door Opened to the Imprisoned Seed, 1659
I think I’ve written before somewhere – I confess I can’t find it, though – of the strange difficulty of spirituality during times of happiness and security. A few years ago I lived through a period that I’d have described in terms very much like Nayler uses here, “when… friends and acquaintance are become farther off than strangers, and whatever thing the creature seeks to for comfort, turns against him, and adds to his grief; then is known the power of holiness and truth in heart with God, and a clean conscience will speak peace; and none can take it away from you, if you abide but in it…”
It’s a great comfort to know that God’s presence is waiting in those times of emptiness and loss, but it is confusing to know that finding him in the good times is sometimes actually harder. I cannot find another way than the odd self-denial of silent prayer, ceasing even to ask for the awareness of God in prayer, but going on in plain faithfulness, without reward, simply out of love. Then, it seems, in the paradoxical way of these things, God will in the end, even in the sunlit days, find the emptied heart in its still place, waiting in the bare inkling of Light, even in the memory of Light, and fill it with isness far more real than words, or longing.