Our Quiet Time With God (Or Lack Theref) Is A Reality Check

Growing closer to God is almost counterintuitive in our culture. We value results, especially instant results. We want to see things change and get things done. 

In an industrialized culture like ours, it’s important to be productive and efficient. Those are exalted concepts that have been ingrained in us since birth. And we measure productivity by the amount of work done per unit of time, yet the important things of God often run counter to that approach.

In this instant gratification culture, we are taught not to be spend time in contemplation and prayer. We want things now. We buy music instantly.  We have speedy checkout lines.  We pay at the pump. We have drive-thru prescriptions. We shop online. Microwaves heat our food up faster. We call anyone, anywhere, at any time.  Engineers are constantly developing ways for us to get things faster and quicker. We are an instant gratification culture. Because of things like these, we get frustrated when something prevents us from instantly having what we want. 

I could give illustration after illustration of this. From driving and getting frustrated when the person in front of us takes three seconds to start going after the light turns green or is driving fifteen mph below the speed limit. To huffing and rolling our eyes at the person in front of us at the express checkout line with their eighteen items instead of fifteen. We get frustrated when we have to wait.

Now these are not evil, immoral situations that should raise our ire and anger levels. But they often do. We have inserted our notions of efficiency into these situations. And if someone is not meeting our standards, we become impatient because they are inconveniencing us. We are not getting WHAT we want WHEN we want it. Our will is thwarted and impatience is the result.

This struggle between productivity, instant gratification, and efficiency with growing closer to God crescendos when it comes to us taking time out of our day to spend intentional time with God. Yet Jesus modeled a different way--a way we all would do well to emulate. "But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities.  But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray." (Luke 5:15-16 ESV). I can see how I would react if I were one of the Twelve disciples. I feel a lot like Judas. I would be hunting for Jesus frustrated. He could be healing more people of their infirmities. He could be teaching. Where is he? And then I would find him in the desolate place, praying.

I struggle to be like Jesus.

Even writing this, I think of excuses against just spending time with God. I can grow close to God while actually working and bringing about His will. I can use my time to get something done that will bring glory to God. I can spend time with a person and share Jesus' love. All of these things are good and should be done, but they don't have to be juxtaposed with just spending time with God in a deliberate, meaningful way. 

I tell myself that I can do a lot more with my time than spend a half hour building my relationship with God. And in that, I show more about my beliefs than I do about the value of spending time with God. 

In order to be devoted and committed to spending time with God, we have to reach a point where the spiritual side of life is just as real to us as the tangible. Maybe even more meaningful. We're inundated with the idea that the material is all that matters, but part of following Jesus is being used to transform this world from our reality to God's reality. That is impossible unless we are living with one foot in God's intended reality while keeping the other foot grounded here in our fallen, sinful, and broken one. 

When Eugene Peterson, the man behind The Message, was asked about spending time with God, he replied:

Get your Bible and find a place. If you can’t do this daily (some people can’t because of their life circumstances; mothers with young children are obvious instances), try for at least 20-30 minutes, two or three times a week, or four. Don’t make demands on yourself too high. Don’t ask questions about, “How long is this going to take?” Believe that something does happen in that silence—usually through Scripture, but not always—in prayerful, attentive listening, knowing that you’re in the presence of God. I ask for a commitment of six months; don’t come back in three weeks and say nothing’s happened.

I’ve never had anyone who’s done this at least six months who came back to me and said, “I did it and nothing happened; I’m going on to something else.” Not many who give this a fair test ever say that nothing happens.

For more from this interview, check out Interview with Eugene Peterson: WhyCan't I Hear God?

At its heart, spending time with God is really a faith issue. I tread carefully here because I don't want to make spending quiet time with God an issue of legalism, yet I also can't avoid the reason we fail to practice this spiritual discipline. If we have faith and genuinely believe that spending time with God is important, then we will naturally do it. Our schedules will be changed to include the most important part of our lives. We will wake up and want to spend time with God rather than put it off or feel that it is a burden. If we don't have faith, we will think it is meaningless. 

And whether we regularly spend time with God or not really shows what we truly believe. 

Most Christian struggles can be solved by just drawing closer into the heart of God. It may not fix the issues we are facing, but it will give us the perspective to endure. It may not make us materially wealthy, but it will teach us to be content with what we have. It may not resolve every conflict, but it will inspire us to bring love into all situations. The transformation that happens when we just take seriously Jesus' example of regularly spending time with God is amazing. God is faithful. He does not let us down. He honors our pilgrimage.

Whether we actually do spend time with God is a reality check of sorts. Our actions show our true beliefs.  Do we believe in God? Do we believe that He is a personal God? Do we believe that He will sustain us in all situation? I admit that I struggle with faith at times. I want action, so I push quiet time away. What I'm really saying when I do this is that I value my own productivity more than I value God's desires and plan for my life. For I can't know the heart of God and His plans for the things around me unless I am delving into spending time with Him regularly.

Help me with my unbelief.