I’ve been awake since three o’clock this morning thinking about this posting. I seldom have a problem with finding a topic to write about because my ramblings are almost totally drawn from what I have been studying or thinking about, but this morning I have drawn a blank.
First thought out of my head is to wonder if I have been so busy lately that I have not put the time that I need into my personal study? Ah, how easy it is to be hard on ourselves about our study habits, church attendance, prayer and a host of other spiritual aspects of life. And the next thing we know we are feeling guilty.
I wonder about guilt because it is one of those things that seem to spin its way into most of our lives. What I am discovering is that if we are not careful it is not only easy to feel guilty, but to project guilt onto others. A few careless words that we think are harmless can end up hurting someone very much.
I find this is true when it comes to things like Bible study and prayer. It is easy for me as a person with a great deal of time on my hands to study but it is not so easy for someone who gets up at six o’clock, packs the kids lunches, prepares breakfast, then runs out the door for work. A hard days work leaves that person tired and worn out. But, instead of rest there are meals to make, washing to do, homework to hear, and dishes to be done. When the person does take a break all they want to do is sit and relax.
As a pastor for many years I was privileged to have my work revolve around study and prayer. I was enthusiastic about my work and loved board meetings, prayer meetings, Bible study groups and small group gatherings because of my excitement over being part of a dynamic growing church.
However, for the person who had just gotten home at six o’clock from work the same excitement wasn’t there for an hour and a half board meeting. And when people didn’t come out to all the programs, groups and meetings I had planned I would scratch my head and wonder what is wrong with people?
The truth is that nothing is wrong with people. We just live in a busy world where our time is allotted with great care because of the stresses of modern life. And if we don’t take that into consideration we soon end up laying guilt upon people who don’t deserve it. If you are having a hard time finding time and motivation to pray and study please don’t beat yourself up over it. Start with five minutes a day. Listen to Christian radio on the way to work and pray throughout the day.
Devotion to God doesn’t revolve around how much time you are spending in prayer and Bible study but in how honest you are about your relationship with God. There is no formula for each of us to follow as if we are cookie cutter Christians. Each of us is different with different demands and pressures on our life and we have to come to God the best we know how with the resources and time that we have.
For all of us who are trying to juggle life with our spiritual self here are a few things that might be helpful in your journey.
1. Understand that life is a journey and that you are growing as a Christian, regardless of age, and that each day if you get just one new thought or insight into God it has been a wonderful day.
2. Never panic or feel guilty about your relationship with God. If you are feeling the Holy Spirit prompting you to spend more time in devotion then listen and move forward slowly but surely. Don’t think you are going to jump from almost no prayer life into spending an hour or two each day in prayer. You will get discouraged and give up.
3. Move in small steps. If your prayer life is not satisfactory to you then add five minutes a day to your prayers. Five minutes is a long time when you are praying. Break it into two parts if you have to. Remember, God is happy to hear from you regardless of how long the conversation.
4. On the drive to work you can receive teaching through listening to Christian radio or playing CD’s. That quiet time alone in the car can become an amazing blessing of learning and time with God.
5. If the study of the Bible seems like a daunting task try reading the Bible without fretting over every word. I’m involved in two Bible study groups and we study in depth, literally spending time on every verse as we study through the book of John. Bible study doesn’t have to be like that. It can be very simple where you read a couple of chapters before bed time and let your mind reflect on what you’ve read as you drift off to sleep. Or you might pick a verse in the morning and use it to meditate upon throughout the day.
6. Never feel guilty about your relationship with God. God knows your heart and where you are in life. He will prompt you when it is time to dig a bit deeper into His word or spend a little more time praying and reflecting upon Him. Our lives are spiritual journeys and we have a lifetime to grow stronger in our knowledge, love and understanding of God.
7. Don’t be afraid to share your thoughts about your spiritual growth with others because we are all growing and deal with the same struggles as you. Take a few minutes every day to thank God for His goodness to you and His love for you and you are on the right path.
8. Last of all don’t let someone else’s experience be your guide for how you should study and pray. Move at your own pace and trust God every step of the way. It is easy to become discouraged when you compare your devotional life to some giant of the faith. So don’t compare, just live out your life in the assurance of God’s love for you and the Holy Spirit will guide and lead as He sees fit.
Remember, God loves you unconditionally and never casts you down.
* Please remember our Christian brothers and sisters in Christ who are being persecuted for their faith. Some of their stories can be found at http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/