I rolled over and hit the snooze button on my alarm for the third time.
I had planned on getting up a little earlier than usual in order to spend some time reading my Bible, but, like many other mornings, in the fight between extra sleep and good intentions, sleep won out.
Sure, I was tired. I probably needed that extra sleep. But I somehow didn’t see time with God as something I needed.
Maybe you can relate.
In the daily struggle to balance different areas of our lives and the limited time we have, almost everything else wins out over spending time with God.
In theory, we all know that time with God is important. Having a thriving quiet time is something we aspire to, like all those projects on Pinterest that we just know we’ll get around to when there’s some space in our schedules, when we finally get our lives in order.
But “getting our lives in order” is always a future possibility, a place even the most organized among us never really reach. For now, quiet time is something we squeeze into our schedules intermittently when we get a few minutes.
We don’t really see it as “avoiding” time with God, we just think that between everything else we have to do, we don’t have time. When we really look at our lives, though, we know that’s not true. We’re all busy, but we could set aside some time. Why don’t we?
The truth is that often, deep down, we lose sight of who God really is and who we are in light of that. When we view God as anything less than who He is, our desire and motivation to spend time with Him wanes. There are many ways this plays out, for example:
God Is Not a Record Keeper.
When we see God as our record keeper instead of our loving father, spending time with Him becomes a chore.
In our sinful, fallen state, it’s easy to slip into seeing God as a distant being keeping tabs on our behavior. This can make time with God into something we feel we have to do in order to be a “good Christian,” which can either make us do it for the wrong reasons, or run in the opposite direction.
Our default is to want to earn our salvation, and when we slip into legalism, reading the Bible and praying become something to check off our checklist to prove to God that we love Him and deserve His love in return. Instead of viewing Bible reading as a time to soak in the truth of God’s love and grace, we search for more rules to follow to please Him.
We let our own religious fervor dictate how we feel about ourselves and others. When we’re well-disciplined, we feel superior to those who aren’t having regular quiet times. But then, when we miss a few days of reading, we think God is mad or disappointed. Like Adam and Eve hiding in the garden, we run from God out of shame.
When we don’t view God as good, we run from Him.
All of us have areas of our lives that we just really don’t want to give over to God. Maybe it’s a particular sin pattern, maybe it’s something we really desire that we’re afraid He won’t give us or will take away from us—a certain career path or way of life, a relationship, our health.
Surrendering our whole lives to God is terrifying if we don’t really believe God is all powerful and wants the best for us—even when what’s best is painful. So instead, we interact with him in a guarded manner, not being honest about how we really feel.
But the truth is, God is nothing less than our loving father who delights in us, wants to spend time with us and wants the best for us. He sent His only son to die for our sins not to simply give us a clean start, but so that we can be with Him and draw near to Him.
If we really saw God like that and felt these truths, wouldn’t we want to strengthen our relationship with Him?
So maybe the answer to our failing to spend time with God isn’t to just resolve to be better, to hop on another Bible reading plan and try harder to accomplish. Maybe it starts with re-examining and adjusting how you are viewing God and yourself. Here are a few ideas of what to do when you find yourself getting “too busy” to spend time with God.
Be honest with God about how you feel.
Confess to God that you’re mad at Him or that you feel like you’re doing fine without Him right now or that you’re fighting for control. Ask Him to give you more of a desire for Him. After all, it’s ultimately God Himself who spurs us to cry out to Him. That means that if you’re aware you should be spending more time with Him, He’s already working in you.
Use the time you have.
Wanting to be close to God is not our default, so we are going to have to resolve and fight our natural tendencies in order to do it even when we don’t feel like it. And you can’t really get in quality time with God by just getting up five minutes earlier than usual. You’re going to have to intentionally set aside some time in order to really dig in.
But also, you don’t have to wait until those appointed times to talk to God. In fact, something like turning off your radio to spend your commute to work in prayer may increase your desire to set aside more time later.
Figure out the best way for you.
Some people need a Bible reading plan. Others find plans too restrictive. Some people need to read and pray in the morning. Some people work better in the middle of the day or at night. Don’t let others’ ideas of how you “should” be spending time with God make it into just a routine or chore.
Any relationship takes maintaining on both ends, but even if you haven’t talked to God in years, He’s not waiting to shame you or ask accusingly “where have you been?” He is always faithful and loving, even when we aren’t.
Dargan is a former RELEVANT editor turned freelancer. Find her online at darganthompson.com or follow her extremely random train of thought on Twitter @darganthompson.