Religion vs. Relationship – Feeling guilty again! (Part 6)

Posted: 20/05/2011 in God
Tags: , , , , , , ,

The third mistaken assumption we can have about God time (and this has been especially relevant for me) is:

  1. It’s become a strive-fail-guilt cycle.

 The vicious cycle of striving failing and guilt turns what should be a time of intimate relationship with the Father into something we loathe or resent and there are many reasons why we run this mouse wheel! These are some of the big ones.

Unrealistic goals: Over the years I have heard various people share about how they get up an hour early, say 5am, to spend an hour in prayer and my automatic reaction was guilt that I wasn’t doing that. They do it so surely I can; what kind of Christian am I if I can’t spend an hour with God in the early morning. So I’d go about setting a new goal based on what I’d heard….and of course after a day or two, I’d give up, frustrated and disillusioned. Strive-fail-guilt. Whether or not the people who shared about their meditative practices intended on motivating me or not is not the point, it is that I chose to set goals that we for me completely unrealistic. I am not a morning person; I can barely pour my cereal let alone read the bible or have a conversation with God! My dog is lucky to get a pat. I just do not function well in the morning so what made me think that getting up even earlier to spend time with God would be successful? I need to find a time when my brain is switched on, otherwise there is no relationship what-so-ever in the time I spend with the Lord. I’m doing it out of guilt and duty and it becomes a religious rather than relational interaction. Having said that, I acknowledge the importance and value in starting the day with God; I also recognise that it will be different for each of us. For the most part I simply say “good morning Lord”, at other times it might be a little longer but I am connecting with Him even though it’s not a half hour of prayer.

Lack of time: As I discussed in my last post, there are some that do experience God’s love, are hungry to spend time in His presence and see the immense value in it, but have so little time. They try to make time for God at the end of the day when they exhausted, collapse into bed, and fall asleep within seconds of starting a prayer or of reading the word. So they try getting up earlier but struggle with that too. Strive-fail-guilt. How to get around busyness, well this is where we may need to think laterally. Let me ask you this. Who drove for half an hour today? Who ironed clothes or washed dishes? Who went for a walk or went to the gym? Where in the bible does it say we must sit down, stop all we are doing or God won’t have the time of day for us? Can we not pray while driving or sing along to some worship music while ironing or listen to a sermon podcast while walking? Turn off the day-time TV, turn off the radio and use those minutes to spend time with God. Should prayer be relegated to a certain time for a certain length everyday? I really don’t think so. Paul tells us to pray without ceasing (1 Thes 5:17) not to pray at 2pm every afternoon for 1 hour. I’ve had friends tell me recently that they dialogue with God often throughout their day. They just naturally include God in their day whether it is asking of Him or just thanking and praising Him. Sometimes I will admit that busyness can be procrastination. I am creating work where there really is none because I can’t be bothered spending time with God – usually because of resentment or guilt or because my expectations are so small. Are we really that busy, every second of every minute of every day of every week, month and year? And if we are do we need to check our priorities?

Poor time management: We can sometimes delude ourselves into thinking we are too busy because of poor time management or justify our lack of God time by using the “I just need some time to myself” excuse. Thoughts of spending time with the Father enter our head and we might even begrudgingly do it resulting in not so much strive-fail-guilt than resent-guilt. “God can’t you see that I’m busy, can’t you see that I need this time to myself to unwind”! We resent Him for wanting to spend time with us. He knows we are tired, stressed, overworked, frustrated and weighed down with burdens. He knows we need time out and rest (Psalm 23, Isaiah 40:27-31). Jesus says “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest…” (Matt 11:28 NIV). He knows these things and is willing to give us the rest we need but we push Him away happier to find our rest in TV. Who watched an hour of TV tonight or read a book or spent some time in the garden or went out for coffee with friends? I’m not saying there is anything wrong with any of these things, I love them all but maybe our time management needs an overhaul. It is the times in my own life where I have decided not to watch a half hour of TV and spend it instead with the Lord that I have been most rewarded. Of course I don’t think it has to always involve prayer or study of the word, let’s get creative. If you love music or play an instrument, put on a worship CD or play some worship songs. Do you write? Write something for the Lord. Are you just tired, then wait upon Him, let Him refresh you. Research the numerous bible study tools out there to get you started. And most of all pray that He will help you as you shift your focus from self to Him. This has been a big struggle for me recently because in shifting my focus I then began to set unrealistic goals and it turned into strive-fail-guilt all over again! Did God really want me to give up all forms of entertainment and all my hobbies? Of course not! I really don’t think God minds that we watch TV, spend time in the garden, read a book or and so on but I do believe that those things should take second place to Him. If God actually stood before me, face to face expressing His desire to spend time with me would I really say, every night, “Lord I really just want to sit down and watch this TV show, can you come back later”?

Little expectations: If only we realised the value in spending time with God. If we could understand just a little bit of who God really is and what He wants to do in our lives. If we could just grasp the enormity of His love, how dynamic our times with Him would become. We have become so focused on theology that we have forgotten the heart of the Father, the pursuit He has of our souls and the sacred romance He wants with us. And we have overlooked the supernatural aspect of our God! For most of my Christian walk my perception was that spending time with God involved a bit of bible study and a bit of prayer and it was all a bit boring. I didn’t expect anything more than that. God wants an encounter with me and with you that goes beyond our wildest expectations. Jesus prayed this “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world” (John 17:24 NIV). Jesus also promised us another counselor in the Holy Spirit (John 14:26, 16:7) and look throughout the New Testament at what happened to the early Church when they encountered the Holy Spirit. It was dynamic, powerful and life changing, not only for the Church but for those around them. “How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son” (Ephesians 1:3-6 MSG). This is not a picture of a distant God of whom we should expect little. What amazing lengths He went to in order that we might have a relationship with Him. Did He then decide that relationship is no longer important enough to meet with us when we seek Him? Go into your God time with great expectations, with a hungry heart and see what He will do!

Please don’t think I am devaluing the importance of reading scripture and of prayer. I acknowledge that there needs to be some discipline involved in this and it should not be a rare or often hurried event. I am however acknowledging that all of our circumstances are different as are our personalities. What works for one may not work for another. Some people are great readers some are great conversationalist’s. But what we can’t do for ourselves Jesus can help (John 15:5, Phil 4:13). I am learning in my own life that you get out what you put in. It is important though, to recognise when it is becoming religious rather than relational and bring it to God. He will help you, He will guide you.

Green pastures and quiet waters




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