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.