If I’m honest, my time with the Lord lately is thin and flimsy.
Reason #1: I’ve allowed normal life stress to paralyze me into only living out surface-level, day-to-day activities in an effort to just survive. My brain can’t handle anything deeper than what television shows need recording on my DVR or if I prefer crunchy versus creamy peanut butter.
Reason #2: Because of Reason #1, I’ve filled up my life with things such as shopping for shoes, catching up on my DVR, an extra glass of chardonnay and texting endlessly on my smartphone. I long for the peace the psalmist so famously describes in Psalm 23: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows” (v. 5). But I am running on empty and I continuously turn to superficial sources in attempt to “fill my cup.” Not surprisingly, these things drain out of said cup faster than I can keep up with.
I’ve found myself in a crazy cycle that has lasted about three weeks, and my life is a bit off-kilter. This is what happens when my time with the Lord is replaced with secondary stand-ins. I know that I will never get back on track without a strategy, so I’ve decided to commit myself to a few changes.
Trimming Down Online Time
First, I need to evaluate my time spent online. This is a tough one, and it is my biggest drain of energy and minutes in the day. Click after click I spin farther away from my absolute priority: time with God. I know there are meaningful things to do on the Internet, but I want God to know He is more important. "Liking" a page on Facebook or tweeting about my latest shopping excursion can wait.
Allowing myself to be intentional with my time spent online sets my heart in a place of respect for the Lord—placing Him as my priority. With that in mind, I’ve determined I must not open my laptop in the morning until I have opened my Bible and my heart to what God wants me to hear for that day. Though the Lord already knows He is worthy of my full attention, this act of abstaining from the Internet is an outward act of respect that changes the inner expression of my heart toward the Lord. Though I sometimes would rather check in with my friends or read up on last night’s political debate, the holes in my heart I attempt to fill with lesser things are slowly fulfilled instead with the Holy Spirit’s quiet reassurances of truth, which sustain me as I head straight into a full day.
Fixing My Priorities
To help me engage with the Word of God, I read it with a notebook and pen ready. Otherwise, sometimes I find myself checking the box like I do everything else on my to-do list. After I check that box, I feel good about completing the task of prayer and Bible study in a time-efficient manner, I cross it off the list and move on. This is a fleeting moment of contentment because I didn’t allow the Lord’s truth to sink in and fill me with the daily strength and grace God gives. I think sometimes I would rather my time with the Lord be just shallow because I’m not in the mood to take a hard look at my ugly heart and let Him do something transformational with it. Physically writing out a key Bible verse burns the Scripture in my mind as my hands stay active during my study, causing me to interact with God’s word. I then ask pointed questions about what I just read:
What is the Lord saying to me in this Scripture?
What do I need to do differently today because of this Scripture?
What is one action I can prayerfully take today to live out the words of this Scripture?
I’m learning that God blesses those who put to action the commands from His word. It is not easy to get out of the mold of reading my Bible, checking the box and moving on, so by journaling through my Scripture reading, I’m held accountable for what the Lord is teaching me. There’s something about putting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, that make us more mindful about what we learn.
Filling Up With God’s Truth
Scripture memory is another tough one for me. Memorizing Bible verses and passages is a tried and true way to replace the junk in my mind with words that are eternally meaningful. Every time I’m tempted during the day to return to my distracted, shallow-focus state, I can refer to my Bible verses to replace those unproductive thoughts with time-tested Scripture. I’ve been so resistant for so long to memorize Scripture, but this empty cup of mine and my efforts to fill it up with shopping or Facebook are just no longer cutting it. So it is time to get down to business. I’ve started with Psalm 84:1-4. I’ve found a good way to keep my Scripture with me all day is to type the verses into my notes app of my smartphone. I’ve decided to click open this app and review my verses when I’m waiting for a friend to return a text or procrastinating at work.
A Glorious Exchange
The hardest part of this process of reconnecting with the Lord is giving up my failed attempts and surrendering my stress. I dislike the thought that I’ve gravitated more toward pursuits of leisure and distraction than my King––my Lord who is more than enough to fill my cup. When I make time for Him, He is quick to prove His love is more satisfying than the immediate thrill of charging my credit card at Target, His peace is more than any surface-level interactions online can give me and His strength is mightier than any of my stress-related fears.
Every day it’s a challenge and a choice. And one I want to choose to take on faith: emptying ourselves of the lesser, so He can fill us with something better, in a glorious exchange.
Sarah Martin is a writer, speaker and blogger offering encouragement to twentysomethings in transition. In addition to blogging at LiveitOutBlog.com and serving on the editorial team at SheSeeks.org, Sarah is the author of upcoming book, Stress Point: Thriving Through Your Twenties In A Decade Of Drama (Thomas Nelson, 2012).