I was in my early 20’s when I became a Christian. And as a new believer, I earnestly sought to make up the ground that I felt I’d lost by spending copious amounts of time reading my Bible.
While this was effective for me early on, after a few months, my desire began to wane. That’s when I was exposed to the idea of a daily “quiet time.” It was something that was introduced by Christians that I respected greatly and seemed like a really great idea. I mean, who couldn’t afford to carve a few minutes out of every morning to start the day hearing from God through His Word?
And the thing is, once I was aware of the “quiet time” phenomenon, I was amazed at just how prevalent it was.
Everyone was always talking about their quiet time.
But the thing was …it didn’t really work for me.
Mornings were always rough, because I’d inevitably be thinking about all the things I had to accomplish during the day. Lunchtime was too inconsistent based on my workload. And I’ve fallen asleep reading the Bible in the evening more times than I can probably recall.
But even during those times when I successfully put aside my to-do-list and fought off sleep, I’d often still find my mind wandering a few minutes or even moments in. I thought maybe it was just that I wasn’t disciplined enough, but no matter how hard I seemed to try, my quiet time seemed empty.
Then one day, during an afternoon walk, I stopped to rest under the shade of a large tree and was prompted to open my Bible (I went almost everywhere wearing a satchel with a Bible in those days) and came upon the following passage from Psalm 25:
Who, then, is the man that fears the Lord? He will instruct him in the way chosen for him.
As I read this, it occurred to me that, while a focused quiet time was something that seemed to work well for many of my friends, that didn’t necessarily have to be the way God guided me. In this psalm from David I was reminded of the importance of desiring to know God’s ways and paths, but also of the Truth that God chooses different, unique, ways for each of us.
And in the years since my struggle to force the paths of others to lead me, I’ve discovered that God has the ability to speak to me in a variety of different ways.
Nature – Engaging with God through His creation
The beauty of God’s creation surrounds us, yet we’re often so busy simply moving through that we neglect to think about how wonderful it is to be a part of it. While doing things like taking a walk during a rainstorm or traveling outside the city to gaze at the stars may seem like flights of fancy, they’re also amazing opportunities to reflect on the scope of God’s plan and consider the privilege that you are not only a unique part of His creation, but an important and valuable member of His family.
Biblical Interruptions – Remove Excuses
One of the chief barriers for spending time with God is the way we budget our time. I struggled with distraction during my attempts at a quiet time because the time I was setting aside was always competing with something else. So if that’s a struggle for you, I suggest finding a way to have different points of your day interrupted with opportunities to consider God’s Word. I use an app called goTandem. It sends me scripture multiple times a day, personalized for me. Note: As a point of full-disclosure, I’m a part of the goTandem ministry. But I have genuinely found it to be effective.
Exercise – Challenge your spirit while challenging your body
It’s easy to just pop in earbuds and zone out during a workout. However, I’ve found that during exercise, God sees me as a captive audience and will often challenge me to consider something important in the midst of my sweat and labored breathing. So whether you want to just read a quick section of scripture before a run, or listen to an entire podcast during your P90X routine it’s a great opportunity to incorporate time with God.
Meet with a Trusted Friend – Getting an outside perspective
Each of us should have a handful of people who know us well. Whether it’s a spouse, best friend, pastor or our own mother, we function best as part of a community. (Even those of us that are introverts.) And when it comes to our personal relationship with God, sometimes others seem to have a better handle on what God is telling us than we do. So whether you’re finding yourself in the midst of a dry spell or paralyzed by a fork in life’s road, set up a time with a trusted friend to talk through it. You just might be amazed at how clear your path is when you hear how others are watching you travel it.
The challenge with these “quiet times” is they rarely turn into the life-altering meetings we so want them to be. It’s natural to want our meetings with God to work instantaneously—the same we’d like one trip to the gym to result in a six-pack. The trouble (and beauty) is that our relationship with God is a journey. It requires steps, and while they may be small, each one takes us somewhere.
So whether you’re one of those people for whom a quiet time works well, or someone who struggles to make time for God, the important thing to remember is that God is faithful. He’ll show up to meet us whenever or where ever we are. It won’t always be life-altering, but it will always be worthwhile.