Stuck inside, not allowed to meet up with a lot of people, in a time of pandemic equals not a good time! Unsurprisingly keeping our spiritual life strong can fall from the forefront of our minds. I'm aware that I definitely have got lost in my own head and it can lead to me spiralling down a negative rabbit hole. Here are some practical steps and things I've found helpful to keep my relationship with God alive.
1. Have a quiet time everyday
For many, this may already be implemented in your day to day ritual, but I've always found it hard. I can never just seem to pick up the Bible and turn to a page and get much from it, so have to use plans and some plans are either too simple or complicated or just don't fit in to day to day life! Like the beautiful image in Psalm 119:105 - "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." Reading into God's word is, for me, a necessity to nourish my relationship with God. Like talking to a friend, how do you keep up with them if you never chat or reach out? So, for all of of you who may be struggling with having that quiet time, like me, I've just made a habit of reading the Bible app. Usually it's just the verse of the day. After reading that I maybe say a prayer and sometimes I just leave it at that but more often than not once I'm in that space reading God's word and praying, I like staying there so I just go into a plan I choose from the Bible apps wide selection. A lot of them are really helpful. I just finished one on identity and highly recommend it. LINK here???
2. Talk to someone
It could be argued that a lot of our culture encourages an individualistic 'dog eat dog' approach; TV and Media create an ideal of 'hustling' namely 'work 24/7 and you make it big'! A great quote I've always found fascinating is from St Anthony the Great. It goes like this,
"A time is coming coming when men will go mad. And when they see someone who is not mad they will attack him saying, 'you are mad, you are not like us' ".
You maybe wondering why I say all this? It's not to depress you, quite the opposite. It's an exciting opportunity. But it's also a hard time. With politics, strong views and unprecedented times we can be affected and feel quite overwhelmed, I know I've definitely been there. It helps to talk to someone. Whether a mentor, friend, someone at church or even me, if you want. You're never alone. Reach out. We can't make it all on our own.
3. Church isn't Netflix!
Weird comparison. But I think the two have had more similarities in the recent times. When Church simply becomes a spectator, audience watching game, it will lose every-time. We have days where we don't like talks, days when we are just not 'feeling it', and days when we just zone out. Netflix and other TV can be a tempting option.
The way I try to counteract this is through understanding what church is. It is something I take part in and am involved in, whether at home or in a physical gathering. Active participation is what God calls us to do and, in the past, the services I got the most from usually found me singing at the top of my lungs taking part. Being back in gathered church last week, whilst I couldn't sing I could still actively participate in worship by writing sermon notes, thinking about the words sung over us or by doing the actions to the children's song. It's still worship and being church, just different expressions of it.
"Praise the Lord! Praise God in His sanctuary; praise Him in His mighty heavens! Praise Him for His mighty deeds; praise Him according to His excellent greatness! Praise Him with trumpet sound; praise Him with lute and harp! Praise Him with tambourine and dance; praise Him with strings and pipe! Praise Him with sounding cymbals; praise Him with loud clashing cymbals!"
4. Don't kick yourself
I think one thing that maybe lots of us of feel but maybe don't admit, is that we feel insecure ... not good enough, that others are better than us and more helpful than us. This is a real thing.
Spiritual warfare and comparing myself with others about being a good Christian is something I've definitely felt. There's three things which can happen to me when this occurs; I can diminish my feelings and then it builds up and explodes, I can dwell in the emotions and never try and get better, or I can recognise them for what they are and practically try and prevent them.
Whatever place you're at don't kick yourself. God is with you in it. The biggest thing that can get between us and God is ourselves. Doubt, comparison and insecurity is human. To develop a relationship with God I've found that I need to recognise that God knows me and all I'm going through and wants me to dwell in Him through it. Be with Him through it this week.
5. Get outside
However much we want to get on bingeing that recent TV show, avoid the colder seasons weather and hibernate on the sofa, something I find really helpful is to just get outside.
When we physically move we aren't focussed on the stuff in our head we are focussed on the activity at hand. On top of that there's a bunch of scientific stuff which says it's super good for mental clarity. I personally have got more into running just to get some headspace and to think. I think God dwells in that time. He wants us to cultivate active time with Him like praying and worshipping, but also time to look after ourselves.
As it says in 3 John 1:2 "Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers" look after yourself and try going outside.
So there you have it! My five suggestions to strengthen your life with God. In reality I don't have the answers and anyone giving you an exact way forcing you to follow it probably knows the least about it too. Just go to God this week, call to Him and maybe create a 5-point plan for yourself. Thanks for reading!