During my first years as a mother of young children, the spiritual discipline of spending time with God looked nothing like the hour-long, rich and satisfying devotions I enjoyed as a single woman. I struggled to rise early enough to read my Bible in peace, or to gather my thoughts enough to pray as I collapsed in my bed at night. Though I might not have admitted it out loud, I had concluded it must be impossible to maintain a relationship with God in this season, and I would just have to hold my breath and wait until the child-bearing years were over to get back on track.
Then God sent me a mentor — a fancy word for a sister in Christ who was willing to love me authentically and call me up in areas of personal growth that I was neglecting. She committed to meeting with me once a week to read the Word and pray together. Sometimes, though I’m ashamed to admit it, our Wednesday evening Skype dates were the only times all week that I opened my Bible. But during this season I discovered something amazing.
In concluding that God couldn’t fit into my busy days, I was believing a lie that He was not big enough or strong enough to meet me through the haze of motherhood. But during this season of only meeting with Him as little as once a week, He proved to me that He was way bigger than the box I’d built for Him. For even on the seeming starvation diet of once-a-week dates with God, my faith began to grow again. My soul woke up from the its malnourished unconsciousness, like a diabetic from a low-blood sugar-induced coma, and began to find joy, peace, and strength for the challenges I faced each day.
One of the things my mentor encouraged me in was the discipline of listening. So often we fill out our check lists of spiritual disciplines with actions we must take and words we must say. There was actually just such a list pasted into my Bible when I was younger:
- Prayer of Adoration
- Prayer of Thanksgiving
- Prayer of Confession
- Prayer of Intercession
- Read the Word
- Meditate on the Word
- Pray the Word, etc.
But somewhere in all those lists of Very Good Things, we can forget that most of all our time with God is meant to be a deepening of our relationship with Him. And how do you get to know someone better? Not just by talking about yourself, but by asking questions and listening to the other person.
My friend encouraged me to quiet myself before the Lord in the few moments I might find each day, and ask God what was on His heart for me. Sometimes the quiet could only be found in the ten minute solo trip in the car to fetch milk each week while my husband watched the kids. And, amazingly, God was faithful to meet me when I was faithful to give Him the few moments I had. Those milk runs became a precious part of my week, fortifying my soul for what was an exhausting phase of motherhood.
Thus began a season of rich soul growth, of His Spirit plowing deeper into the soil of my heart, and His love becoming more real to me each day. The fruit of this was evident even to a casual observer — my next door neighbor even observed that I seemed less stressed and more at peace in the months since these new habits had begun. A desire grew in my heart to impact God’s kingdom, and with it, opportunities in which He actually used little old me, filling my heart with awe and joy.
As my faith grew, and experiences began to stack up showing me how crucial time with God was in order to face the challenges of my day, I got more creative with finding time with Him. Oh, and my youngest started sleeping through the night. I began to meet with God for just a few minutes in the morning if I woke before the kids, or in that first bit of quiet when they all went to their rooms for afternoon quiet time. I learned to give Prime Time to God, over writing, reading, or other favorite hobbies, because I had learned that although I could survive without daily time in the Word, I could not thrive without it.
And so I ask you: is your spiritual life growing, or are you just keeping your head above water in the busy chaos of life? Perhaps it’s time to once again embrace the discipline of meeting with God. Even if it’s just once a week, I can testify that God is big enough to meet you where you’re at and impact your life in the few moments you have to give Him.
Tips for Successful Devotional Time in Busy Seasons
- Set up accountability. Get a friend who’s willing to call you once a week to ask you what the Lord is speaking to you. It may be a friend, relative, or even someone who lives across the country. Just make sure it’s someone who’s as committed to your spiritual growth as you are — you don’t need the burden of reminding this person to remind you to be in the Word.
- Set reasonable goals. If your class schedule or work load has you struggling to find time to eat a square meal or get a good night’s rest, then striving for an hour each early morning is simply not realistic. Look instead for a regular time perhaps just once a week, perhaps just five minutes a day, and commit to that. God rewards faithfulness.
- Be Creative. It may be in the car rather than a prayer closet, and via Skype rather than over coffee in your living room that you find times to meet with God and study His word. Think outside the box and be willing to be flexible with what you think devotions should look like.
- Purpose to listen. Make sure your time with God includes quiet listening. He is a loving Father who wants to have more than a business relationship with you — He desires a deep friendship! Try making this question a regular part of your time with God: “Lord, what is on your heart for me today?”
May you be encouraged that God desires to have a growing, vibrant relationship with you, His child, and has made provision for you to be with Him in whatever season of life you are living.
Read my story “All Is Grace” for more glimpses into how God has led me from a Pharisaical teenager to a mamma leaning heavily on grace and finding great joy in the journey.