There are some aspects of the Christian life—biggies such as caring for the poor and praying—that I read about in scripture, then see modeled by friends or illustrated through biographies, and I feel absolutely clueless. I want to be doing those things, but I’m so far from it. However, lately I've been learning that owning up to my failures in this way is absolutely freeing and actually exciting.
I recently admitted to one of my pastors that “praying has never been one of my strengths,” or some other mild way of phrasing “I don’t really pray.” He recommended I read the book With Christ in the School of Prayer by Andrew Murray, so I downloaded the audiobook for free via Hoopla. After listening to a few chapters while I did the dishes, I was getting ready for bed and I truly felt more excited than if I was packing for a trip to Europe.
Why? I just realized that there’s a huge privilege to being a Christian that I haven’t even begun to tap into. I already have a lot of joy in God, but there’s a joy that is promised from spending time spilling my heart before my Father, casting my burdens on Him, worshipping Him in spirit and in truth, and seeing answered prayer, and I haven’t even begun to experience happiness that stems from those things.
Those feelings of discontentment that I harbor so often are indeed because I’m lacking something, but the solution isn’t “get more stuff from Target” or “move to Colorado.” The solution is to figure out exactly what we’ve been given as people who have been “seated in the heavenly places." If the privileges given to a believer feel like they’re overstated in the Bible—and I’ll admit it, sometimes I feel like scripture is exaggerating because I don't feel like I've been given "all things"---I need to realize that the problem is with ME and not with God.
Of course my first response is guilt over my lack, but that’s a self-righteous talking. It's as if any of the ways that I’m doing an “ok” job in the Christian life were as a result of my hard work and not God’s grace. A humble heart would instead have the self-dialogue, “Ok, I’m failing at this, but I would fail at absolutely everything if it wasn’t for God’s help. So, God, help me with this too."
The many, many, many invitations from God---seen also through His commands---to live life the way He designed us to live it are invitations to joy, because God cares about our happiness more than we do. When we see a command in scripture, we can remind ourselves, “This is an invitation to happiness.” God knows the happiest way to live, and Jesus actually experienced that as the Happiest Person to Walk the Earth, so He is so kind to invite me to follow that path. (In fact, He is the Way.) Remember that this was a path that led to being abandoned by friends and crucified on the cross. But it was the happiest path, and Jesus did it “for the joy set before him.” Happiness drove Jesus and it should drive me too.
So, when we see the ways we are failing in our Christian lives—maybe for you that looks like Bible reading, sharing the gospel, involvement in your local church family, etc.—we shouldn’t feel guilty but thrilled and invited. We should feel like we’re missing out on happiness. And we should be all the more encouraged to press on!
As you enter the New Year, desirous of growing in your walk with Jesus, don't be discouraged by all the times you've failed in the past. Be thrilled that there are whole mountains and rivers and caverns of joy that you haven't even discovered yet! And ask God that He will help you find them!
As New Years approaches, I plan on posting several articles on how to grow specifically in the area of Bible reading. Bible literacy is truly my greatest passion, and even more than I hope to encourage others in their motherhood, marriages, or cloth napkin usage, I want to encourage them in this.
Here are some things I've already written on the topic:
Christians, Let's Study the Bible for Ourselves!
The Real Reason We Don't Read Our Bibles
10 Years in the Word: How the Bible Shaped Me
The Ugly Trend of "Bible Journaling"
The One Thing I'd Remember If I Lost My Mind
By the way, that beautiful and stylin' man in the image above is my Pappaw! He stays up till the wee hours of the morning reading the Bible sometimes. I love him so much.
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My name is Hope.
I'm 25, married to a former skater dude, and raising little people ages 5, 3, 1, and not-yet-born. I like lime green and sarsaparilla, and I wear my Crocs until they melt. (Florida problems.)
Quick links to some of my posts:
Articles I've Written on Other Sites:
Youth Ministry's Family Blindspot - Christianity Today