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Seeking God and the Devotional Life

Dealing With Discouragement In Your Daily Devotions

Sketch of discouraged person
Photo by Jeffrey Hsu

Sometimes the pressure to be perfect at a task works against us. Our daily devotions are no different. We want to please God in the way that we spend time with Him. And since our efforts often fall short of our expectations, we can easily get discouraged. But take heart. It’s okay if your daily devotions are less than perfect. God still loves you. He still extends His grace and mercy to you. And the desire you feel in your heart to spend time with God is a reminder that His Spirit is at work within you.

If you’re feeling distant from God to the extent that you struggle to read the Bible or pray, here are 3 suggestions:

1. Stop condemning yourself

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)

When we’re not spending time with God, we can be sure that beating ourselves up is not the answer. In Quiet Time: Legalistic Rule or Helpful Tool, I discuss how legalism in our daily devotions can lead to unnecessary feelings of guilt. Those feelings might motivate us for a few days. But grasping His love toward us will capture us forever.

That’s not to say that all feelings of guilt are bad.

When we have truly sinned we experience proper feelings of guilt. We feel distant from God because, in a sense, we are distant from God. But even then, the remedy is not self-condemnation. It is confession . When we agree with God that we have sinned, “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Our brokenness over our sin may lead us to confession. But self-condemnation doesn’t make our confession more acceptable to God. It is the blood of Christ, alone, that cleanses us of all unrighteousness.

So if feelings of guilt or condemnation are negatively affecting your time with God, it’s time to get practical.

  • If unconfessed sin is the issue, confess it, turn from it, and move on.
  • If you feel guilty because you haven’t been setting aside time to meet with God, just start doing it today.

In other words, never allow feelings of guilt to keep you from growing in your relationship with God.

2. Be motivated by God’s grace

He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit. (Titus 3:5)

When God’s grace is properly understood, our love for Him increases. It creates a desire in us to draw near to God, not to run the other way.

If we believe that the Gospel was simply a decision we made at some point in the past so that we might celebrate at some point in the future, we miss the joy of the relationship in the present. Think about our relationship with God in light of Jeremiah’s proclamation. “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

There is so much to be gained by growing in our understanding and appreciation of God’s love toward us. And when we fail, it should comfort us to know that His love never ceases; His mercies never end; He always remains faithful. Who wouldn’t want to know that God?

Our tendency to abandon the daily relationship is a failure to immerse ourselves in the grace that He offers us every day. Our relationship with God, just like our salvation, is a product of His never-ending love and mercy. His love doesn’t come and go based on the depth of our devotional life. If our failure to maintain certain disciplines were to keep us from a relationship with God, we would all be without hope. In all instances of broken fellowship with God, His grace is the remedy. How can we say we believe in God’s grace and not run toward it daily?

As you come to God, avoid the natural urge to create a catalog of requirements. The God who saved you by His grace does not sanctify you by a list of man-made rules. Abide in Him and let His words abide in you (John 15:7). Share your heart with Him through simple prayers. Start there. Then see where His Spirit leads you.

3. Experience the joy and pleasure of being in God’s presence today

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11)

Joy and pleasure are powerful incentives. So much of what we do in life is related to the pursuit of these rewards. Yet God has already told us that they are found in His presence. In light of this revelation, we often respond by filling our lives with priorities that, at best, can only lead to temporary satisfaction. Instead, the answer is to simply draw near to God. In How To Have A Quiet Time in 2 Easy Steps, I describe a simple way to get started.

Discouragement is certain when we attempt to micro-manage our world at the expense of our devotional life. When we leave God out of our daily routines and decisions, we always lose. The solution is to rearrange our priorities around our relationship with Him.

Assuming you have trusted in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, your sins are forgiven. Now let His grace inspire you to know Him in a deeper way every day. As you do, you can expect that He will fill you with the joy and pleasure He gives to those who walk in His presence.

How about you? Are you struggling to maintain a daily time with God? If so, what obstacles get in your way? How might the suggestions in this article help you to move forward in your devotional life? Please leave your comments below.

What Adam Could Teach Us About Desiring God

Photo of Apple with Bite Missing
Photo by Shane McGraw

Adam could teach us a lot about desiring God. He probably woke up every morning wondering if this would be the day that God would restore him to the Garden.

If we’re not troubled by a lack of intimacy with God, it may be that we don’t know what we’re missing. But Adam knew. And it must have haunted him every day.

Adam’s perspective

The Bible doesn’t tell us much about Adam. So I guess I’ve always seen him as a simple man, easy to deceive. He lived in a perfect garden. He had a perfect wife. And he had a perfect relationship with God. Then he bought into the lie that the world had more to offer.

But I think my initial assessment of Adam was wrong. He must have been an amazing man. After all, he was God’s first man. God created him to propagate the human race. I’m sure he was as perfect as a man of flesh could be. He was created in the image of God. He walked with God. And God talked to him.

What’s it like to have that kind of intimacy with God and then lose it?

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Genesis 3:8

Adam’s grief

Have you ever thought about the emotions that must have assaulted Adam as he swallowed the first bite of the fruit?

What was it like for Adam to hear his accusing conscience for the very first time? Did he break out into a cold sweat? Did he get sick to his stomach? Did he vomit?

Maybe we think his shame was more bearable because he wasn’t alone. Or maybe that made it worse. How did he feel as he pulled his wife behind a tree? Was his hand covering her mouth as God walked through the garden? What was it like, for the first time in his life, to hide from God?

Surely there is a correlation between the level of intimacy in a relationship and the degree of grief one feels when all is lost. We’ve all grieved over the loss of flawed relationships. What would it feel like to lose a perfect one?

For the rest of Adam’s life there must have been an agony in his relationship with God that we cannot comprehend. He remembered what it was like to be truly alive and innocent. And I’m sure he wanted that intimacy again more than anything.

If we do not deeply regret any day out of fellowship with God, we do not appreciate Adam’s grief. The chaos that so often keeps us from God would have been his constant reminder of the goodness and perfection he once knew.

Adam’s counsel

The message of the gospel is that God has given to us what Adam could only hope for: reconciliation and restoration. In Christ, we have the unhindered freedom to walk with God.

If Adam were with us today, can you imagine the counsel he would give? I believe he would tell us that nothing is better than knowing God.

Adam lived the remainder of his life wanting what he once had. And we live ours in hopes of what we have yet to see.

God calls us to come out from our hiding places. And the honor is profound.

He walks in the garden. And He extends the hand of fellowship to you and to me.