Letter To A Friend Who Struggles To Abide
I never got to respond to what you shared with me about how you still are not doing well spiritually. If I remember correctly, you've determined this by a diminished desire to spend time with God in his word even when you have the ability to do so. You don't like that you are in this place, but you do not necessarily have a desire to change. Would you summarize all of this as complacency in Christ? Or would you call it something else?
Maybe you're just tired, and need to give yourself a little grace for not having a daily quiet time. Maybe the fact that you do anything on a weekly basis is something to celebrate as you take small steps toward weaving your prayer and scripture intake into the natural rhythms of your life.
But maybe you really are struggling and something really needs to change. If that's the case, I have a few thoughts that I wish I could share in person but would prefer to send now in case they help. I know that I've been where you are. And it helped me then to remember that the Lord knows that we are dust, that we are imperfect, that even when we are "doing better" spiritually from our perspective, we are still flailing around, desperately in need of grace to image Christ well in our lives.
So here are three things I'd ask you to prayerfully consider:
1. Have you considered repentance?
We know the Bible teaches us to abide in Christ and to let his words abide in us, which can look a number of ways, right? You know these things well. When I struggle to devote time to this, I can try to remedy it by "doing better," but often this fails. Often, I need to humble myself before God and just admit my problem. My confession can sound something like this:
"I am fighting against the desires of my flesh and failing. The truth is I don't want to do this. I have lost my appetite for you. I am losing sight of the value of this time. I am turning to other things instead. Lord, please forgive me for this. Help me turn back to you, help me delight in your word again. Give me a desire for you that overwhelms any other desire or pursuit. I can't do this without you."
God is faithful! He always helps me when I come to him, humble, penitent and requesting divine assistance. After coming to this place, I find that I am eager to seize the next opportunity to take in his word and pray. That's nothing but God giving me grace to choose the better, more worthwhile thing.
If you are complacent, if you do not truly desire to get in the word in a way that makes sense in this season, if you are pushing him away for some reason, repent. Confess your sin, turn from it, and ask God for strength to obey, to do what is truly good, what truly glorifies and draws you close to him. Then take a small step in the right direction. Our Lord is a faithful helper and his help is strong! I would definitely start here and keep crying out to him for as long as you remain in this place.
O grant that nothing in my soul may dwell, but Thy pure love alone! O may Thy love possess my whole, my Joy, my Treasure, and my Crown. All coldness from my heart remove; my ev'ry act, word, thought, be love.
--Jesus, Thy Boundless Love to Me, hymn
2. What do you turn to instead of God?
Name them. Not to me necessarily but name them to yourself. I found myself in a similar spot recently where I was turning to comfort food, Netflix, and Adam for rest and satisfaction instead of Christ. It was getting out of control, and I kept feeling like God wanted me to go on a fast as a way to force my flesh into submission to the King of my heart (1 Corinthians 9:27).
I don't know about you but I don't like the idea of fasting. I put off this feeling for weeks but eventually had to admit to myself that this must be the Holy Spirit's prompting. I know I sure wouldn't suggest it nor would Satan. These thoughts put me in full-fledge, fierce, abiding lady mode. I had to do it whatever it took to abide in the Lord, even if that meant going on a...fast.
Because I'm still breastfeeding my youngest, I could not abstain from food. I fasted sugary treats, entertainment, and marital intimacy (all the things I had been turning to) for a couple days instead. It was like a reset button that made me cling to Christ again, pursuing rest and strength in the Lord through time in the word and prayer.
Consider this quote from John Piper's, A Hunger for God:
The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but apple pie. It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world. It is not the X-rated video, but the prime-time dribble of triviality we drink in every night. For all the ill that Satan can do, when God describes what keeps us from the banquet table of his love, it is a piece of land, a yoke of oxen, and a wife (Luke 14:18-20). The greatest adversary of love to God is not his enemies but his gifts. And the most deadly appetites are not for the poison of evil, but for the simple pleasures of earth. For when these replace an appetite for God himself, the idolatry is scarcely recognizable, and almost incurable.
Sometimes we need to wield the weapon of fasting as we engage in the good fight of faith. In Matthew 6, we read an account of how the disciples of Jesus were to worship. Jesus teaches them that to not draw attention to themselves as they pray and fast. I like this account because it implies that the people of God will fast at times. And Mark 2:19-20 gives a deeper clue as to when that will be: after jesus ascends. There was no need for the disciples to fast while they walked with Jesus on the earth, but when he was gone, they would sometimes need to fast to reorient themselves to the will of their risen Lord.
I am not going to lie to you, friend. I haven't done this often but recently I found that this was the best way to reign in the appetites of my flesh and submit them to Jesus.
3. Embrace a new way of clinging to Scripture and your hope in Christ.
I understand that you miss your old routines and habits, but I suspect that there is something greater than what you've experienced around the corner. I suspect that you will find yourself more conscious of a moment-by-moment clinging to the glorious truth of the Gospel as you discover new ways to set your mind on Christ throughout the day.
Yes, rather than being confined to a slot on your schedule, your devotion to Christ may spill out of your times alone with him and weave its way into all the nooks and crannies of your day. You may even find yourself growing in ways you never imagined. And that's pretty exciting!
Friend, you are on the brink of something quite sweet: the spectacular in the midst of the unspectacular, our faithful God shaping beauty of out of the hardness, keeping the treasure trove of his promises as you apply the rich truth of the Gospel to the everyday, real situations and problems of life. So be encouraged. You are not alone in your perseverance. God is with you. And because he is with you and he's faithful, you will taste his goodness in the season of motherhood. You will enjoy the abundant life found in Christ alone. And He will work in you both to will and to work for his good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). You are simply learning a new way to fight for what truly matters. And, girl, I'm right there with you.
Let's be fierce together.
Here are a few resources to help you take your first step:
You Can Abide Too, Tired Mama by yours truly
Draw Near to God: A Practical, Not Perfect Plan for Abiding by Maggie Combs
Seven Ways for Busy Moms to Get in the Word by Courtney Joseph
The 3-5 Method: Studying God's Word When You're Tired and Busy by Abbey Wedgeworth
I am a firm believer in the adage, "slow and steady wins the race." Consider one small step you can take to spend time in the word in a way that fits the rhythms of your current season. And revel in the Lord's grace!