Do you get sick of Bible and coffee pictures on social media? Like, some people obviously do their quiet time every single day, because there’s beautiful, consistent, photo evidence. (And yeah, I’ll admit it, I’m jealous.) Even in Christian culture, there’s an image to keep up with. “Make sure you’re doing your Jesus time, but also make sure your Bible, journal, and wisdom are post-worthy.” No one ever says that stuff straight-out, but I’ve let its undercurrents affect me. I’ve become self-focused, even in my relationship with God!
Lately, though, my perspective on time with God has changed. He’s been showing me that I need Him more than I need the peace of quietness, the enjoyment of journaling, or even the depth of new wisdom. I need his presence more than I need the things he gives me through it.
I haven’t been learning this in the most noble way, though. I didn’t read it in a devotional or have it revealed to me during prayer. Nope. Rather, I learned it through a month of being inconsistent with him. I met with him only when it felt both convenient and desirable, which added up to not much time at all.
And I’ve felt the effects. During the days I didn’t meet with him, I was quickly eaten up by fear, sin, regret, and selfishness. All that seemed to matter was myself. My happiness. I didn’t give much thought to living like a servant or being slow to anger.
I’m not saying that spending time with God eliminates the struggle. There’s no magical behavior modification involved. However, quiet times do hone your focus for a day. They direct your perspective to greater things, and draw it away from yourself. It’s easier to live how God wants us to live when we’re in close relationship with him. It’s become clear to me that every good thing in me comes from God, and every bad thing in me comes from a lack of him.
The following passage has great imagery:
This is what the Lord says:
“Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
who draws strength from mere flesh
and whose heart turns away from the Lord.
That person will be like a bush in the wastelands;
they will not see prosperity when it comes.
They will dwell in the parched places of the desert,
in a salt land where no one lives.
“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”
When I read this, I instantly applied it to how much time I’m spending with God. If I blow him off day after day, trusting in myself and others for what my soul needs, I plant myself in the most desolate part of the desert. Far from him. The soil there is crumbly and salty, and I shrink into a dried-up bush: a tumbleweed, really. Even when rains and prosperity come, I’m so far into the desert that they cannot reach me.
I see my life going in this direction when there’s plenty to be happy and thankful about, but I feel unsatisfied and disturbed. Nothing can make me prosper when I’m planted far from Him.
When I trust in the Lord, however, sitting in his presence daily and relying on him constantly, I plant myself next to a bubbling stream. I become a mighty, well-established oak tree. My roots grow far in every direction: deep into the earth and running along the ever-fresh path of the water. Even when intense heat or an entire year of drought comes, I have no reason to fear. The stream remains unaffected, and so do I. My leaves are always green, and I always bear fruit.
I see my life going in this direction when I’m satisfied and at peace even when things aren’t going that great. Sorrowful and painful areas of my life will not affect me to the point of withering, because I can look to the One who knows not decay, failure, or lack.
Journaling about and studying this passage was powerful. I’ve experienced the results of both desert and stream living, so I connected instantly with the imagery.
However, it didn’t shock me into a perfect schedule of meeting with him. Here are a few excerpts from my journal, following patches of inconsistency:
“I’ve missed you, God. I am fully aware of how desperately I need you. Without you, I fall into sin. Self-pity. Laziness. Selfishness. I forget who I am, I forget about you, and my life takes a downward spiral from that point.”
“I admit it, Lord. I am nothing close to a self-sustainable, independent young person, and I hope to never think I am. . .”
“Lately, I don’t feel much like that tree planted by the water. I feel like I’ve been drying up. Nothing can replace my time with you, Lord. Not even church. . .”
Time and time again, God is showing me that I’ll only find joy and contentment through steadiness with him. So, I’m trying. Even when I don’t want to or don't feel like I need to, I’m meeting with him: and he’s showing up. It’s not about a perfect track record. It’s not about snapping pretty pictures of my Bible notes. It’s not even about what I can get out of it. No, what really matters is enjoying the presence of my Savior, studying his word, and being formed more into his likeness every day.
Would you join me?
Hello! I'm Anna, a college student living in the Midwest. I'm a strong believer in uncontrollable laughter, powerful words, and a morning cup of coffee. I pray these posts will encourage you to live a full life with and for God: unhindered. Look forward to new posts every Monday morning!