Sometimes, when I am going through a particularly rough time, I find myself less and less committed to spiritual disciplines. My quiet times diminish, my prayer life becomes rushed and shallow, and I fill free time with mindless distractions, instead of more time with the Lord. It is usually when I am tired; bone tired from all of life’s challenges that happen to be especially thick right then. It feels like a dense fog that just seems too hazy to see through, so I just want to stop in my tracks for a while and rest it out.
It is unfortunate when this happens because this is the exact time I need to be the most prepared. I might even justify behaviors and attitudes that I would normally not engage in because I am unprepared to stand up to the temptation, having not clothed myself in the full armor of God. In these seasons, I find myself choosing to fill my time with less challenging things; things that don’t require change, repentance, focus, energy, submission, surrender, or real thought. I guess you could say I just default to background noise.
Earlier this year, I found myself in this kind of season. I am sure a lot of us don’t have to look back very far to remember a time that you just felt more distant from God, more discontented, discouraged about circumstances, and less disciplined. I can easily find myself feeling incredibly shameful in these times, dwelling on who I am not. I am not as spiritual as this person, as disciplined as that person, or as patient in times of struggle as that person. It can make me feel disgusted with myself, defeated, and unworthy of God’s favor. I have these thoughts because instead of listening to the voice of the One who truly loves me and wants to grow me, I am listening to nothing–to background noise. We can easily lose sight of the depth of God’s grace and the fact that He delights in us.
When I waste these times of trial by listening to nothing but background noise, I gain just that…nothing.
Usually, after going through trials, I can look back and see how God was at work in my life and how He used this means of stretching me to grow and mold me for His cause. Hindsight, of course, is twenty-twenty, isn’t it? In the book Sacred Marriage, Gary Thomas puts it in a way that has stuck with me and challenged me to think differently. In the book he is addressing marriage, but I think it can be applied to any circumstance, relationship, job, or trial: “What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?” One could rephrase it this way,
What if God is more concerned with our holiness than with our happiness?
Sure, we can say that God wants to give us a life that is abundant and full of joy, but that joy (REAL JOY) is to be found in Him. Not in a marriage. Not in a perfectly healthy body. Not in a mansion. Not in a supermodel figure. Not in a powerful title. Not in the successes of our kids. In Christ alone.
So, today I pray that we can use these times to turn off the background noise, that we would be positioned in The Word and in prayer to really listen and hear His Spirit instead. I pray that we will use these times of uncertainty to cling to the promises of God which ARE certain. And, I pray we can find ourselves seeking to be more holy than happy.
“When I understand that everything happening to me is to make me more Christlike, it resolves a great deal of anxiety.” -A.W. Tozer