“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 (The Message)
I read this one this morning and I felt it deep in my bones. I am tired, I am worn out, I am burned out on reading and studying the same things over and over. The Lord wants us to get away with him. He wants us to take a minute and recharge and reboot. In these days, when we need rest the most, we have to be proactive. It seems counterintuitive to add another thing into our schedule in order to get rest, but did you hear what He’s offering? He is offering a life that is “free” and “light.” I want that, do you? Here are my top five tips for getting in that time with God, and action steps for you to implement right now.
Schedule it in.
How many times have you talked with a friend you haven’t seen in awhile and said “We should get together” and it never happens? I know that we all have the best of intentions; we know we need God, but we don’t schedule it into our lives. Unless we pull out our calendars and set a date, it simply won’t happen. Obviously it won’t be perfect because we are not perfect, but we have to at least try.
For me, it has to be the morning; I have to set the alarm. If I don’t do it right away, I will continually push it off for other “more pressing” issues. If you would rather sleep, than maybe you need to set aside ten minutes during your kids nap time. Or maybe even (dare I say it?), you need to schedule in a TV show for your children, so that you can spend a little time with God in the afternoon.
Action Step: Take out your phone and set an alarm for whatever time of day works for you to take a few minutes for the Lord. Label it, turn it on, and now you’ve got a date with Him!
Put down your phone.
This one has honestly been the hardest one for me to accomplish, especially right now. Sometimes I feel like my only connection to the outside world is my phone. And that is probably true, but even in normal circumstances I don’t need to be connected to my phone from the time the sun comes up, until it goes down. I have noticed that if the first thing I do is look at my phone in the morning, then suddenly it’s a half hour later and I don’t have time for anything.
In Hannah Brencher’s author’s course, she talks about “locking” her phone in a box when she works. She will put the phone in the box and put it on the shelf until she has accomplished her writing goal for the day. She could easily just set her phone down in another room, or next to her computer, but she knows and acknowledges that she will be tempted to pick it up for a quick look. If you read devotionals on your bible app, consider using your paper bible, or turning off notifications during that time.
Action Step: Choose a place in your home where you put your phone when you are spending time with God. I spend time with God on the couch in the mornings before the kids wake up. I place my phone on the other end of the couch where I would have to get up to reach it. That extra effort is usually not worth whatever I need to check “real quick” during my time with God.
Try something new.
We all know that the Bible is the living breathing word of God, but, man, 1 Chronicles or Numbers can be a tough one to get through. When we look at our times with God, there are always new ways to get ourselves excited about it. I love to read, so I read one chapter Old Testament, one New, and a Proverb or Psalm everyday. Some days I’ll read more Old Testament if something exciting is happening, or I’ll trudge through another list of families who are in charge of something important and then move onto my New Testament reading. There is always something for God to say in his word, but we don’t have to read the Bible cover to cover, chapter by chapter, in order to hear it.
In this day and age, there are so many different ways to engage with God, and we just need to find one that fits for us right now. You can listen to worship music, watch a sermon, or listen to a podcast. You can do a bible plan on the YouVersion app, or you can buy a book on Amazon on nearly any spiritual topic. If you want to be consistent in your times with God, you’ve got to do your best to keep it fresh.
Action Step: Choose a book of the Bible that you know that you love. If you don’t know what that is yet, start with the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John); I mean, who doesn’t love a little Jesus? Start reading, and then stop when you hear from the Lord, and write it down: do this every day.
Fake it til you make it.
Our times with God will not always be ground-breaking, revelatory, or life-changing, but they will always be worth it. Just like when we are trying to get in shape or eat healthier, one meal or workout is not going to be as ground-breaking or body-changing as another, but they all contribute to a bigger picture of overall health. We need to meet with God daily so our minds and hearts become accustomed to who he is, and who we are in Him.
Even though we may start out by barely remembering what we read because 6am is early and we’re not awake yet, the more you do it, the more engaged you will feel with the Lord. And the more you read the words, and write the words, and hear the words, the more ingrained they will be in your heart.
Action Step: Make a goal for how many days a week you will spend time with God. Make it attainable for you in your life right now. I shoot for five days a week, and if I get 7, awesome. The more time spent in the word, the more you will “make it!”
The Lord placed us in community for many reasons, and one of those reasons is to spur each other on to good works (Hebrews 10:24). I know that if I am aware that someone is going to ask me if I spent time with God that day, I definitely won’t skip it. I also know that if my friends are reading things from God’s word and growing from it, I want to be a part of that, too. When our communities are hearing from God, we are inspired and encouraged to hear from God, too.
For me, this looks like bringing God into conversation with my friends that are believers. My friends and I have a constant Marco Polo thread going; most of the time it is about steam mops, sleep training, or pumpkin products from Trader Joe’s, but we also talk about our times with God, our struggles, and our prayers. And every time we have a meaningful conversation about God, it makes me want to dive deeper with him: read, listen, and pray.
Action Step: Get the YouVersion bible App on your phone, and choose a bible plan. Once you choose to start one, there is an option to invite your friends. You can enter their emails or become “friends” with them through the app. When you do this, you will all be reading the same content, and there is space to talk about it at the end.
We can grow our relationship with God during this time when our lives are so messy, but we have to do a little work to get that rest he promises. We have to schedule it, put down our phones, keep it fresh, set goals, and involve our community . Pick one thing from the list this week, and start feeling lighter and freer today!