Written by Melanie Barnfield
I praise God when I am reminded that a believer’s identity is sure, purchased, and never in jeopardy of being lost thanks to the work of our gracious and unchanging Savior! So why in light of this great truth do I still find myself at times feeling as though I am slipping down a metaphorical mountain, fighting some slow decline, and trying to claw my way back to the “mountain top” of vibrant worship? Perhaps you have felt it too? Why do so many of us feel as though we are losing ground? Why is there such an ebb and flow of emotion and motivation? Most of us probably know what we should be doing to live successfully in God’s kingdom, and we have probably all been through varying seasons of growth and maturity. We know God has promised to finish the work He started in the lives of everyone He has called. Why, then, is our faith so easily tested and how can we stabilize our soul when the world around us continues to spin?
In most cases, our problem is simple; we have not chosen to spend focused time with the Lord in a regular, habitual way. Too often, I give into the pressures of everyday and neglect time in the Word. Yet, there are no shortcuts to God that do not include intimacy with Him. That which is worthy takes time and it is likely that the effort we put into it that determines the benefit.
In Hebrew culture the symbol of devout study of the Torah was the image of a man sitting under a fig tree. To harvest figs one would have to begin work early or the fruit could spoil in the sun. It took a person who was paying attention, one who has been trained to recognize when the fruit is ready, because a ripe fig is not particularly easy to identify. Figs also ripen in stages yielding only a little at a time leaving a farmer to collect figs in installments.
Our time with the Lord is much the same way. More often than not, our growth seems small and hard to track. Yet, it is in the every day seeking of God through the Scriptures that we will reap an unbelievably precious harvest.
Jesus modeled these disciplines perfectly as He continually took time to pray, memorize and meditate on God‘s word, fast, and even seek out silence and solitude regularly. As we work in our various vocations and ministries let us protect our personal time with the Father. After all, He is the prize.
We alone are responsible for the stewardship of our heart. If you want to ensure a consistent and precise faith then the word of God is your only bedrock. In the end, it’s true what they say, “It’s hard to fall in love by proxy.”
Therefore, we need time to know what we think, to know why we believe what we believe. We need to know what God thinks. We need time to process the full spectrum of information and emotion that assails us on a regular basis and we need God to process it rightly. Deep thinking on the truths and spiritual realities of scripture (with the Spirit’s help) is the key to changing our attitudes and behaviors.
Taking the time to dwell on scripture and the attributes of God helps us to cement the ideas and concepts of character and virtue that we need within our own heart. Yet, even when God’s Word is clear we are a people who easily forget. Taking the time and patience to critically think about the things of God is a discipline that must be practiced.
This stilling of ourselves is so important that God gave us a day of rest, one every seven, to stop and enjoy Him. God says, “Be still and know that I am God.”
“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”Psalm 46:10 ESV
Our being “still” proceeds our “knowing.” Quiet moments with the Lord are how we begin to bridge the gap between what we understand in our heads and what we hope will trickle down into our hearts.
We as a society are largely losing our ability to reflect in solitude. With all the various technology and streaming platforms fighting for our attention every waking hour is easily taken up in information and entertainment of all kinds. It takes self-control even practice to be still. Starting out, it may be difficult to have the attention span that’s needed. Luckily, this can be developed. But be aware, it is so much easier to be entertained; so don’t give up.
So how do we go about the business of creating silence and solitude for our meditations….or sacred space and an atmosphere of rest amid the pressures of the every day and the tyranny of the urgent? For many of us we are just too busy and a great place to start would be to simply declutter our life in order to make margin for what really matters. Can you simplify routines, cut access, or streamline processes to generate more headspace? You may start by using a calendar app or planner to plan specific times to be alone with the Lord. Guard that time on your calendar. Maybe you can trade-off responsibilities with a friend or spouse on occasion to make more margin in your schedule? In today’s world you may have to call for a media fast or set the “do not disturb” parameters within your cell phone for a certain time at the end of each day. Take whatever measures necessary but follow A.W. Tozer‘s advice to, “Never let your mind remain scattered for very long. Call home your roving hearts, gaze on Christ with the eyes of your soul, and practice spiritual concentration.”
When we are too busy it is easy to neglect time with the Lord without even realizing it. While it seems counterintuitive, taking the time to be with the Lord, first, will always bring about a greater productivity later, and prove to be helpful for whatever pressures life throws your way. The only way to keep the world from spinning out of control is to be anchored to something solid. And the only thing spiritually and physically solid is Christ alone.
Do you need to get alone with God? Are you dealing with doubts, questions, or fears? Are you struggling with sin or seeking the will of God? These are all points of our need and may be an indication that our priorities need some maintenance. Shouldn’t we make it a priority to spend time with God when there is an emergency of the soul? We forget, time with God is a refreshing spring of life.
We will never be able to MAKE more time but we always have the option to TAKE the time we need. We just need to make it a priority by putting forth the appropriate effort. May we find our satisfaction in God first and foremost, seek after him with unmatched tenacity, and drink often and deeply of his love for us. How perfectly we are wholly loved, forever!
Photo and article by Melanie Barnfield. Melanie Barnfield is an artist, closet introvert, wordsmith, and lover of Christ. She has been married 14 years to the love of her life, and has been blessed with 4 beautiful children. Residing in Benton, IL, she is an avid reader who enjoys teaching, gardening, and photography.