As with all shades of legalism, I am strongly against salvation by devotions: the idea that God doesn’t love you (or at least as much) if you don’t have morning devotional time; that you should be guilt-tripped when you skip the time, or that you somehow forfeit your salvation by not pausing at the beginning of the day. I think it’s a ridiculous notion when spelled out that way, even to people who live that way, just as I used to.
I choose to have devotional time in the morning because I like to commune with God. I like to orient myself for the day in His quiet presence. And I also think He loves me just as much as when I get up too late to have that devoted time.
A few weeks ago, I started to notice a direct correlation between my devotional time and productivity in the rest of the day: if I had zero (or very rushed) devotional time, my productivity suffered greatly. Now, I no longer live by salvation by devotions, so it wasn’t that I was guilt-tripped. This phenomenon confused me: where was this correlation coming from? And the more days in a row I did not have this devotional time, the worse my productivity became, and the harder it was to start up a meaningful devotional time again. What in the world was going on?
Amidst the anxious and emotional haze that hung over my heart during this week, I asked God to show me myself and the truth about this situation. I wanted to start having devotions again, I wanted to be productive, and I wanted this compounding anxiety to dissipate. As always, God answered this prayer.
I realized that there is something else very essential about my morning devotional time: it’s when I intentionally work through my anxieties, my fears, my concerns, and my difficult emotions in the safe and loving presence of Jesus. It’s where I tell Him all the things, and He replaces the hard things with His peace that surpasses all understanding.
Since I’d skipped a few mornings where anxieties had arisen, the difficult things came with me into the day. I ran away from the sobriety of focused tasks and sought out mind-numbing activities. Outwardly, it just looked like I was procrastinating: choosing scrolling or shows instead of focusing on what needed to be done. But by the Holy Spirit, I could see I was numbing the anxiety and stress. I was running away.
And if I’ve learned anything about anxiety it’s that the more you ignore and run away from it, the more consuming it becomes; thus making it harder to want to face all the things in the clarity that God’s presence brings.
My husband jokes that he has to watch seven motivational YouTube videos to get the same amount of introspection that 30 minutes of devotional time does for me. All I can say is God has a fantastic way of making things clear, no matter what it is. Furthermore, He can give me peace even when things aren’t clear — or clear enough to my liking.
Sometimes I’m not immediately aware that I’m anxious — I just start to notice the symptoms. But now I take it as an invitation to pause whatever I’m doing and draw near to Christ. To ask Him to show me my heart and mind, to show me what I need to talk through, to show me what I need to hand over to God and let Him handle, to show me a verse that will encourage my heart.
Are you stressed? Anxious about something? Lots of things? I encourage you to set apart time as soon as possible to pray through it all with our loving Lord. As always, He can’t wait to hear from you.