Can I be honest with you? Like really honest? I don’t do daily devotions. I’m not even sure when I last read my Bible for more than 2 consecutive days.
Except for revealing my super secret crush, that’s the biggest confession I have in me (and good luck trying to get that one out of me).
I don’t do daily devotions. I don’t carve out my 15-20 minutes daily to read my Bible and pray. I don’t start each morning with Our Daily Bread or end each evening with a Sweet Hour of Prayer. And, according to the evangelical culture I was raised in, that’s a pretty big transgression.
Don’t stop me if you’ve heard this: a daily quiet time with God is the single most important way to stay connected to God, It keeps us close to him, it keeps us in God’s Word, reminds us of his love and grace and promises, points out the sin in our life. When we spend time daily with God, it creates a habit of turning to him rather than our own strength. You remember that object lesson from youth group with the sponge? Whatever we fill our lives with will come out when we get squeezed. None of this is new to me. I’ve heard about the vital importance of daily devotions all my life. In my family we even had daily family devotions. Daily Bible reading and prayer are important to spiritual life. If you want to be a light, you have to be connected to the power source, right?
So why haven’t I been doing my daily devotions? There could be a few answers to that. I could say I’ve been kept busy with my 2 jobs, but that’s really a cop out. I know I could carve out time (right after that daily gym time I also seem to be skipping out on). I could say I’m angry with God, and that may have some truth to it, but it’s not the reason. I’ve often found anger with God in the past has pushed me deeper into my daily quiet time. I could say my daily devotions just lost their appeal and have fallen by the wayside of life. Again, there is some truth to that, but it’s not the reason. There is such a vast variety of devotional books, journals, and apps, that I could easily find something that peaks my interest.
The truth is, I’ve been burned out on daily devotions. It’s such a “requirement” for the Christian, and when I resigned from my position as pastor, I also resigned from being the “professional Christian.” When I laid down that mantle, when the eyes of a congregation were no longer on me, I took a deep breath, stopped trying to do what makes a good Christian and took time to just be. I sat in the pew at church, instead of standing behind the pulpit. I listened to the sermon instead of delivering it. I sang the worship songs instead of planning them. And I picked up my Bible when I wanted to, not when I had to.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I absolutely love my Bible. Some of my greatest seasons of spiritual growth have been during a season of regular Bible reading. And I’ve had my share of daily devotions. I’ve followed devotional books, everything from My Utmost For His Highest to Jesus Freaks. I’ve read the Bible in 90 days (incidentally, I’ve never been able to do the One Year Bible reading), I’ve done an inductive Bible study where I gleaned some gems from in-depth study, I’ve even done Bible reading and devotional plans through the Bible app on my phone.
It’s not that I didn’t like doing my daily devotions. Staying consistent with those devotions has always been a struggle for me. I can start a new plan and do well for a week, a month, even several months. But inevitably, I forget to do it one day, don’t have time the next, don’t feel like it the next, and before you know it I’m choosing between grumbling as I open my Bible or just leaving it on the shelf and trying to squelch that gnawing guilt.
When I laid down my Bible and devotional books at my resignation, I finally laid down the legalistic guilt that had plagued me for so long.
How can something meant to be life giving be so draining?
While I said earlier that some of my greatest times of spiritual growth have been during seasons of Bible reading, I can also say some of my greatest times of spiritual growth have been during seasons where I have not read my Bible or prayed regularly–not the least of which is the past year of post-pastoring. I know there’s a huge value in daily devotions, but is it possible we as the church have overstated that value? Can God connect with us without this daily quiet time?
So, it has been a year since I was a consistent daily devotee. I don’t feel guilty about that. But I have come to a point of desiring more intimacy with God. I feel like I’m closer to God than ever before, yet at the same time, I can’t quite touch him. I can hear him speaking, but I can’t quite make out the words.
All my life, this craving for intimacy has been directly connected with daily devotions. You want to be close to God? Have daily devotions. You want to hear the voice of God? Read your Bible every day. You want to develop a more intimate prayer life? Have a daily quiet time.
And that’s what I’m burned out on.
I crave intimacy with God, but I cringe at the idea of picking up that legalistic guilt. I know what will happen–I’ll read for a week, feel wonderful, get behind, feel guilty, stop altogether, feel guiltier. It’s time for a new approach to Bible reading, prayer, and time with God. So, I have approached none other than my internet tribe with this question: How do you cultivate intimacy with God?
My friends were generous with their answers: out in nature, with family, exercising, reading. They were also gracious with my struggle, noting that I am not the only one who suffers from daily devotion burnout.
A few of my friends directed me to the book Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas. In it he outlines 9 pathways to intimacy with God because not everyone finds intimacy in the same way.
I have purchased the book and when it arrives (I know, why don’t I have a Kindle so I can just download these things? I’m just old fashioned I guess) I will go through the pathways one at a time and blog about my experiences. I know this will be a very personal journey of God-discovery and self discovery, but I want to invite you to follow along with me as I make this journey. Feel free to read the book along with me.
What do you think? Have you ever struggled with daily devotions? How do you connect with God?