Recently I met up with a friend and as we strolled around the beautifully leafy Centennial Park I asked, “How’s your walk with the Lord going?”. She paused and answered, “Well, I guess if I just spent more time reading the Bible everyday and getting into a consistent routine I think it’ll be much better. But I find after three days of doing this I give up. I just need to be more disciplined.”
As I reflected on her words I sensed there was something lacking. I mean, I totally agreed with her that reading the Bible regularly is so important and crucial in growing closer to the Lord. And yet, I felt unsettled. After a while I said, “Y’know, discipline isn’t the answer. Discipline’s not going to get you closer to God. In fact, ‘just trying harder’ is actually going to set you up to fail. And then you’ll feel more guilty and bad that you’ve not been able to keep up your daily QTs.” She looked at me and said, “Then what’s the answer? How do I draw close to God?”
What is a “quiet time” anyway?
Rather than thinking of a QT as a “thing” that needs to be done I find it helpful to see it as part of sustaining a healthy, intimate relationship with Jesus. Setting aside quality time to have a proper face-to-face, undivided attention catch up does wonders for any relationship. It’s about spending a moment of quietness with the Lord, listening to Him and telling Him what is on my mind and heart. Quiet times are relational. Not functional.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 (The Message)
Jesus beckons: “Come to me. I’ll show you how to take a real rest”. Are you kidding - a REAL REST?? I want that! Jesus says there is only one true and lasting rest - and that’s the rest found in Him alone. This rest comes when we stop trying to DO things for God. Cease trying to earn God’s approval by hard work or discipline or religious activities. No daily QT, no disciplined religious activity will ever be enough if we’re just doing them out of duty.
The deepest, quietest sense of rest God gives is knowing I belong to Him and I am completely loved and approved of just as I am. That’s right - Jesus loves you whether you have done your daily Bible reading or not. He removes the burden of feeling guilty and ‘not good enough’. He’s not like a teacher checking off whether you have done your bible reading today in order to pass or fail you. God is not more pleased with us on the days we rise early or less pleased with us on days when we sleep late. We are accepted and approved because of Jesus Christ.
Jesus then asks us to yoke up with Him. As a carpenter Jesus knew how to make things just right. Every yoke that Jesus makes fits perfectly. Trust Jesus to “adjust your yoke” of life perfectly for the plans He has for you at this point in time. This season of parenting young ones is only a season. God knows how weary and frazzled you are. He won’t lay anything on you that is too heavy or ill-fitting for you to bear. You don’t carry these loads on your own. We’re made to be yoked together with Jesus, who shoulders all our burdens.
Does that mean I don’t need to read the Bible and pray regularly? By no means! We are drawn close by His word but not merely as a disciplined academic duty. Here are a few tips on how to draw close:
- Be still. Even for 5 mins, try to find a quiet spot and listen to Jesus. Turn on some worship music. I used to play a Christian lullaby CD every night (occasionally the ENTIRE night!) whilst holding my unsettled baby to sleep. Sometimes just listening to that repeatedly was the only way I could relate to Jesus.
- Be realistic. You have a million things buzzing in your head. Bring these distractions to Jesus. Pray and ask Jesus to confront your thoughts with His Word, with His direction and His light.
- Read a Psalm. These songs are full of raw, real emotions. They give me permission to express my doubt, fears, longings and praise to God in ways far more beautiful than I could ever write. Take advantage of them!
- If you don’t have time to read the Word today don’t worry. Jesus is still Lord. Jesus still loves you. And there is always tomorrow!
Discipline is good. Discipline gets results. But discipline doesn't necessarily lead to a relationship of devotion. Jesus calls us to come to Him. He will teach us the “unforced rhythms of grace” in this season of life. God’s grace is more than sufficient (2 Cor. 12:19). He daily bears us up, and promises that “as your days, so shall your strength be” (Ps. 68:19).
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