This article was first published in the TREASURE issue of The Joyful Life Magazine
I take my time making the bed, fluffing the pillows and inhaling the quiet. Before I know it, this will be what every day is like, I think to myself. When the kids are all grown, this will be normal.
My husband and soon-to-be 4-year-old son were away for a few days, and I was at home with our older girls. Without Lucas tearing around, the house felt quiet—no toys strewn about, no early-morning wake-ups or little body in the bed at night. The freedom to get up when I was ready, go about my day at my own pace and actually complete tasks, had me projecting ahead to when this would be my reality, and yet I had no desire to rush forward in time to that moment. I wanted to enjoy this season—even if all the demands on my time were stretching me and sleep deprivation wearing me thin.
If you met me some twelve years ago, though, it would have been a different story. After five years of marriage, my husband and I found ourselves broke and living back at home with my parents, a new baby in tow. Nothing about my life was going as I had anticipated. Disappointed and disillusioned, I longed for life to look different. Desperate to be done with this chapter of my story, I wanted to turn the page and start a new one as fast as I possibly could. Tomorrow could not come soon enough.
Then, one day, I was asked a question that ignited a new way of thinking and operating.
I was sitting across from my work supervisor, unloading my frustrations about my current season, when she interrupted me with a question: “Where is God for you right now?”
That’s easy, I thought. I know the answer to this one. So I confidently replied, "He’s in His promises." Certain that my answer was not only the right one, but also a very good one, I was somewhat dumbfounded when she shook her head and told me it was not, in fact, a good answer--that I had a problem. Instead of being able to enjoy God’s presence with me and appreciate His current activity in my life, I saw Him as waiting for me in my future.
So she sent me home with an assignment: to watch the Adam Sandler movie “Click.” If you haven’t seen the movie, Sandler plays an overworked architect trying to juggle his family and burgeoning career, who stumbles upon a universal remote that enables him to pause, skip, and fast-forward through life. Without divulging too much of the storyline, he gets to a point where he regretfully realizes he has used this power to 'click' his life away.
What my supervisor wanted me to understand that day, was that while God’s promises were a good thing to hold on to, I also needed to be awake to the things God had for me right now—He wanted to be alongside me no matter how painful, messy, or ordinary that 'now' might be. But I was in danger of 'clicking' my life away.
CLICKING OUR LIVES AWAY
We do it all the time, don’t we?
We wish our lives away with phrases like ‘if only’ and ‘one day when...’
Back then, I wanted to be able to fast-forward or even skip whole scenes of my life altogether because of how painful and disappointing they were--these days, I can be tempted to grab the remote and change the channel to escape how mundane life can feel. I want to escape the monotony of laundry and dishes, lesson-planning and carpooling and... So I zone out and scroll social media, idealizing the lives of people I don’t even know.
But God used Adam Sandler to teach me a valuable lesson all those years ago: Now matters. Now matters not only because how we steward it shapes tomorrow, but because no matter what ‘now’ looks like, it is filled with divine purpose. Now is a powerful opportunity to experience God and serve Jesus right where we are--right as we are.
We don’t have to wait for tomorrow to find meaning and purpose. We can discover it today.
CHANGING OUR FOCUS
“Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:22-24, NIV).
These verses are set in a section of Colossians titled, ‘Instructions for Christian Households.’ Earlier, Paul had been talking generally about what it looks like to belong to the family of God, reminding us to put on love so that we can walk in unity (v. 14). Now, he gets more specific about how that should look in particular relationships, addressing husbands and wives, children and fathers, slaves and masters--and it is the slaves (who had the lowest rank and the least freedom of all), whom he charges to work wholeheartedly for their masters as though working for the Lord.
Paul is deliberate in referring to Christ as ‘kyrios,’ the Lord, in these verses. A ‘lord’ was he to whom a person or things belong, about which he has the power of deciding; one supreme in authority. He was reminding slaves who had to answer to a ‘master’ that they still had the freedom to choose who their true master was—he knew that this truth had the power to transform how they did their work.
While we will likely never experience slavery in the form Paul was addressing, we can often feel like slaves to our circumstances. And the same truth applies to us: We may not be free to choose our circumstances but we are free to choose whom we will serve in them. We can choose a different ‘master’ because we have been set free to choose Jesus--to serve and honor Him in all of our ‘whatevers.’
Turning our focus back onto Christ transforms even the most menial role into a privilege. If we will allow Him to be Lord, instead of our circumstances, then right now—whatever season we find ourselves in, whatever tasks are before us—can become an opportunity to serve God. Even if the task seems lowly, even if the season is a humbling one, there is still God-given purpose and blessing in it.
IN WORD AND DEED
“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Colossians 3:17, NIV).
This verse, along with the subsequent ones addressing slaves, are underscored, encircled, and marked up in my Bible. Words like ‘whatever,’ ‘do it all,’ ‘giving thanks,’ and ‘all your heart’ challenge my thinking. I’m happy to do the fun things of life with gusto and enthusiasm—but suffering? Or servanthood—with all its menial, unseen, and unapplauded tasks? While I might be going through the right motions, my words usually betray the true posture of my heart. They reveal whether I am working as ‘unto the Lord’ or whether I resent my current season.
When my words are tinged with complaint or bitterness, it’s usually a sign that not only have I lost sight of the privilege of serving Christ, I’ve also stopped relying on Him. I’ve ceased to abide and begun to strive.
Paul uses this convicting phrase, ‘whatever you do,’ in both Colossians 3:17 and 23. The word that he used for ‘do’ is the Greek word poieō, and is the same word that Jesus used in John 15:5 where He tells us that “Apart from Him, we can do [poieō] nothing.” It describes a productive action and has the primary meaning of producing or making. Throughout Scripture, it is used to describe the activity of God. In contrast to the other word used for ‘do,’ ergazomai, which is often translated as ‘work,’ it is not about laboring and striving, but creating. God’s heart is that ‘whatever’ His children put their hands to, it would be productive and fruitful.
So He invites us to do ‘whatever’ for Him, and also to do it with Him—to do it in His name. Throughout the New Testament, we see that those who performed miracles, those who declared the gospel and baptized new believers, did so in the ‘name of Jesus.’ The power and authority they drew on to do these things was not their own—it was Christ’s. And this is how Paul urges us to live also: to draw not on our own strength and resources, but Christ’s.
“As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work. We pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives” (Colossians 1:10-11, The Message Paraphrase).
I had frequently tried to pick up the remote and change the channel on my season of life because I felt so inadequate and dissatisfied. I had been trying to make my own way through. Worn-down and depleted by our family’s circumstances, the thought of ‘one day’ offered a form of escapism. But God wanted me to learn that if I would stop trying to ‘click’ my life away and instead keep my eyes firmly fixed on Him, He would teach me how to live out of His glory-strength.
As I learned to be present to where He had positioned me, I discovered that the gift He continually gives me, both in times of lack and times of abundance, is the gift of His presence. I can be wholeheartedly and thankfully present to my ‘now,’ because He is with me.
REAPING AN INHERITANCE
Slaves had few to no rights in ancient Rome, and their lack of legal status meant that they could neither own property nor were they entitled to inherit—yet Paul promised them the reward of an inheritance. This reward was both ‘now’ and ‘still yet to come’ in nature. While they looked forward to the day when Christ appeared and they would also appear with Him in glory (Colossians 3:4), they had already been given the gift of the Holy Spirit within them. He was the guarantee of the inheritance they would one day possess in full (Ephesians 1:14), enabling them to live for Christ’s glory right now. And He is our guarantee also.
We serve a God who brings honor to the dishonored places of our lives; He is able to give us an inheritance even if the circumstances of our lives seem to oppose one.
He redeems our suffering.
He values our sacrifices and esteems our servanthood.
He sees the unseen.
But when I continually long to fast-forward or skip scenes of my life altogether, I risk robbing myself of the treasures--the inheritance--God has for me.
All those years ago, God encouraged me with a promise from Isaiah:
“I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hoards in secret places, that you may know that it is I, the LORD, the God of Israel, who call you by your name” (Isaiah 45:3).
It was a promise of purpose in and from my suffering--a reminder that He desires to fill my life with His riches. But it wasn’t a promise for the distant future. It was a promise for me to unearth right then—He wanted me to find Him in the dark, secret places that were unseen by many, but so very seen by Him. He wanted me to know that I was not forgotten, but called by name. And I did. So much so, that the very struggles I once tried so hard to escape, I now see as a rich treasure trove of His generous, redemptive activity in my life.
Moving in with my parents was far from the end of our struggles--much of the next decade would be marked by hardship and trials, the consequences of which still linger in part today. While there are still days in my humanity where I plead for God to please bring change, I more readily pause to ask what He is doing now and how I can partner with Him in it. I am learning to not ‘click’ my life away, but to honor the places He has positioned me in by being wholeheartedly present to them and to Him, my Lord. Only then can I begin to unearth the treasures He has for me to discover.
This article was first published in the GATHER issue of The Joyful Life Magazine.
I opened the glossy conference brochure and flicked straight to the timetable, my eyes searching out the elective options. One of them was a panel discussion centered around finding the balance between life, motherhood, and faith. For this tired, empty, first-time mom who was struggling to adjust to the inevitable changes that becoming a parent brings about, this description felt like I was being offered a cool glass of refreshing water.
My girlfriend and I headed off to the elective, hopeful that these women, farther along the path of life than us, would offer us their wisdom. We were thirsty to glean from their lives some valuable truths that would enable us to experience a vibrant faith during a season where the demands on us felt overwhelming (and naps would have been a welcome reprieve).
Instead, we left that elective feeling more discouraged than when we walked in. When asked how they made time in their lives for God’s Word, every single woman on the panel had confessed that they just didn’t have time for it to be a daily priority. Between work, ferrying children to various activities, grocery shopping, meal prep, and volunteering in their churches and communities, not only days but sometimes weeks or months could go by without opening their Bibles.
Our hearts were longing for wisdom on how to carve out consistent time to be with God when so many other things required our attention. Yet, we left the conference that year wondering if we were asking an impossible question.
Fast forward nearly 13 years, additional children, and ever-increasing responsibilities both in and outside of the home, and I no longer think it’s an impossible question or a starry-eyed desire. Jeremiah’s words are my testimony: “Your words were found and I ate them. And Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart…” Jeremiah 15:16 (NASB).
We expected to find nourishment from the wisdom and guidance of the older women on that panel, yet we were craving what only God could offer. It’s so easy to convince ourselves that we are too busy to be in the Word, but it’s the one thing we can’t afford to neglect. The wisdom we need to build our homes well; the joy our hearts long for; the strength we need to weather life’s storms; the truth, counsel, and comfort we’re looking for are all found within its pages. As we engage with the written Word of God, we ultimately encounter the Living Word. We find Jesus in every line.
And when we find Him, He becomes the joy and delight that fills and fully satisfies our hearts.
FROM INCONVENIENCE TO INVITATION
I don’t know about you, but the last thing I need is yet another thing added to my to-do list. I don’t need anything else to burden my time or weigh me down with guilt or feelings of inadequacy and failure. Sadly, this is how we often feel about our ‘quiet times,’ and it’s a feeling that the enemy seeks to reinforce with his lies. He lies that the Bible is too difficult to understand and that it’s outdated and no longer relevant to our lives, and he seeks to distract us with momentary pleasures that can never truly satisfy us.
God never intended His Word to be a burden on us, but rather an invitation. An invitation to gather around the table that He has lovingly prepared and to find the sustenance and nourishment that we need and long for as we feast on His goodness. He intended His Word to be a sweet blessing in a world that often leaves a bitter taste in our mouths.
“How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth” Psalm 119:103 (NIV).
When we shift our perspective and cease to see His Word as yet another task and instead recognize it for the feast and treasure that it is, we begin to position ourselves to discover its riches.
DISCOVERING HIS WORDS
“When I discovered your words, I devoured them…” Jeremiah 15:16a (NLT).
My dad once wisely said, “We must steward our desires with discipline. Desire without discipline is fantasy.” Every invitation requires a response, and discovering God’s Word—unearthing its treasures—requires intentionality on our part. We need to deliberately create an environment for our hearts that cultivates a Word-rich lifestyle. Rather than relegating it to a single moment, we need to weave it into the rhythms of our everyday lives. Which means not waiting for the world to stop before we start!
The very term ‘quiet time’ can be a deterrent, causing us to think we need a perfect moment and environment to spend time with God in the Word. Nothing could be further from the truth. We simply need to make ourselves available. Many of my own ‘quiet times’ have involved children crawling over me or a Barney episode blaring in the background. They have simply been moments that I have chosen to stop and still myself—to cultivate what I call ‘quietness on the inside.’
Setting myself up for success has been key to the effectiveness of my time in the Word. This means being realistic about when I spend time in the Word and making it easier for me to do so by being prepared in advance.
It is important to recognize the season you’re in and to discern when is the optimum time for you to be in the Word each day, otherwise, you may find yourself becoming discouraged and giving up before you’ve even begun. In seasons that have seen me up and down tending to children throughout the night, I have found it’s not a good idea to set the alarm clock— King David may have gotten up early in the morning to lay his requests before God, but the best thing I can do in such seasons is to maximize the sleep I can get!
Over the years, my ‘when’ has varied from bright and early, to during my lunch breaks, to while the children napped, to the end of the day before I turn out the lights. The common thread throughout though has been the prioritizing and carving out of this time. However, like most of us, there have been seasons where my rhythms have been disrupted for one reason or another, and I have not been as consistent in setting aside this time as I would have liked. We need to receive grace for when life doesn’t go as planned but we also need to be careful that seasons don’t become lifestyles.
Once you have determined your ‘when,’ you may want to think about ‘where’ you will spend your time in the Word and what you need to have ready to help maximize this time.
On my bedside, I keep a quiet time basket. In it I keep my Bible, an assortment of notebooks and journals and any other resources I am currently using, as well as pens and coloring pencils—because honestly, if I have to go on a hunt for a pen, I will end up distracted by any number of things!
While I do have a restful study nook in our bedroom, my youngest is what I like to call my ‘Velcro baby’ and so, more often than not, my quiet time has to be wherever he is. The beauty of having this basket is that I can take it anywhere in the house and know that I have what I need to not only keep focused but also to enjoy my time with God. Keeping a range of resources on hand gives me flexibility and allows me to weave Spirit-led spontaneity into my rhythms and routines in the Word.
FEASTING ON HIS WORD
“…I ate them; they were my joy and my heart's delight, for I bear your name, LORD God Almighty” Jeremiah 15:16 (NIV).
Now, you need to know this about me: I am not the kind of girl you need to remind to eat. In fact, you’re more likely to find me daydreaming about what I should eat next. I enjoy good food and like most, my body is fueled daily by a mix of snacks and meals that invite you to sit down at the table and take your time.
We are incredibly blessed to live in an age where there are countless materials available to help us stay connected to the Word: calendars, daily reading apps, audio Bibles, podcasts, online sermons, blogs, Instagram feeds, homewares emblazoned with the Scriptures, and the list could go on.
We could snack all day every day on this wide array of resources—and snacks are great! They keep us going when we’re on the run. But alone, they are not enough to sustain us and keep us growing. We also need to sit down and eat a proper meal—to take our time and savor the taste, the company, and the ensuing conversations.
Hebrews 5 tells us that the immature in Christ can only drink milk, but the mature are those who have learned to eat the meat through constantly being in the Word. Both are fed from God’s Word, but the infant only feeds on what other people have feasted on, never maturing enough to chew things for themselves. Because of this, they lack the ability to discern what is truly good and what is evil.
A girlfriend recently shared this analogy with me: You’re standing at the mouth of a goldmine, and the people down in the mine are passing you the nuggets they have found. As you take these nuggets you become very wealthy, but if you would go down into the mine and learn to dig for them yourself, not only would you become wealthy, you would also become strong.
God’s heart for us as His daughters is not only for us to be blessed, but for us to be strong. In His Word, He has prepared for us a feast of truth and revelation, of wisdom and comfort, of love and affirmation, of correction and instruction. As we learn to mine His Word for these nuggets—as we learn to chew it over and to eat from it for ourselves—our lives will be filled with His beauty and His strength.
Don’t be tempted to skip meals. Don’t be deterred if it takes time for your taste buds to adjust from milk to meat. As Moses reminded the Israelites at the end of his life, God’s Words are not just idle words, they are our life (Deuteronomy 32:47). They sustain us and breathe life into all that we are and all that we do as they continually point us to Jesus. But for their power to be realized in our lives, we need to pull up a chair and eat them, savoring every bite.
Throughout my life, the meals I have eaten at the family table have not only sustained me, they have also shaped my identity and given me a sense of belonging. As we learn to gather at God's table and to eat what He has prepared for us, our identity as His daughters—as ones who bear His name—becomes indelibly stamped upon our hearts. It is my prayer that as you discover His Word for yourself and feast from it daily, that it would become a source of joy and delight, as well as a continual reminder of Who you belong to.