Think about it. Is your life ever like this? The winds of demands—programs to plan, to-do lists to complete, phone calls to make, e-mails to delete, and people to love—all swirl around us. The more we try to control the whirlwind, the more things get out of control. Oh, yes—did I mention that in the midst of the hectic whirlwind, we are supposed to have a devotional life with God? When do we pray, read our Bibles, and develop our own spiritual lives? How do we meet God in the midst of these schedules we call “life”?
When I look at Jesus’ schedule in the Gospels, I notice that:
Jesus rarely got in a hurry. I just don’t see Jesus running through the desert, yelling for the disciples to hurry up! He got the mission accomplished without the whirlwind. Jesus prayed often. “Often” is the word used to describe the prayer life of Jesus. Think about it. The Son of the Living God prayed often. And I’m trying to “fit in” a prayer life?
Jesus liked his alone time. Jesus needed time away from the crowd. He even took time away from those closest to him. He knew and acted on the need to “come away and rest awhile.”
Jesus knew when to stay and when to go. Jesus knew exactly who needed his attention at any given time. Consider the story of Jesus learning of the sickness of Lazarus. Did Jesus drop everything to go to him? No, he waited two more days. During those two days, who got Jesus’ attention? The Scriptures do not tell us, but Jesus was probably not idly waiting for the days to pass. He was always meeting the needs of others.
Jesus knew that ministry never stopped. He knew there would always be another person who needed his attention. There was always more work to be done. Ministry never stopped.
Ministry never stops. Every person involved in any type of ministry knows this. There is always a lesson to plan. There is always another book to read. There is always a phone call to be returned. There is always some opportunity before us.
What hinders us from meeting God in the midst of this never-ending ministry world? The reasons vary from personal and professional issues to external and internal pressures. Do any of these following reasons sound familiar?
“Where does the time go?”—time management, procrastination, distractions, the inability to maintain focus even when you do stop.
“And then there’s me”—the personal impact of emotions, attitudes, feelings of inadequacy, grief, depression, anger, loneliness in ministry, the distracting dialogues in our heads.
“And then there’s the family, the staff, the other church members...”—family commitments and concerns, church staff dynamics, the discouragement of “behind-the-scenes” church ministry, criticism of our work.
“Sure, I can do that”—trying to do too much, the inability to say NO.
“Oh, I’ll just do it myself”—the inability to delegate, too often thinking it is easier to do it yourself, feeling there is a right way to do some task (i.e. MY way).
“I can use this” or “That will teach . . . ”—always preparing for others; always the teacher, never the student; too busy reading about spiritual lives to nurture your own spiritual life.
“I’ll be right there”—constantly responding to others, too busy praying for others and not for self.
“Meetings, more meetings, and a funeral”—the unpredictability of ministry, administration, the inability to always schedule ministry—life just happens!
“Oh, yeah, I do have a job!”—If you volunteer, you might actually have another job that allows you to buy groceries.
So what can you do? With this long list of hindrances to devotional lives, is there any hope of meeting God in the whirlwind of life? Yes!
A Few Suggestions
Use what you’ve got. Please do not compare your spiritual life with other people. You cannot have someone else’s prayer life. Discouragement abounds when you look at another’s devotional life and think, Why can’t I be like her? I’m sure that she has a better prayer life than I do! You are not like her. You are not like him. You are you. Use what you’ve got!
Be realistic. Consider your own life. Is 4:00 a.m. realistic for you to begin your day? Find the time that works for you to read Scripture and pray.
Use the trash can! Do you ever fall victim to brain clutter? Too much “stuff” on the brain and no room for God? I’m a firm believer in clean, “smooth” places—places not covered with stuff, but clean for new treasures to be written and learned. Throw some clutter away. It might be literally cleaning off your desk and getting rid of some paper. It may be time to toss the program that is dying. It may be time to toss some emotion that needs to go. Finding God is easier when our hearts and minds are empty of clutter. Freedom can be found in throwing away (or rather recycling).
You cannot read everything, but you can read something. How many books do you have? How many books have you started and not finished? How much guilt do you carry because you have not finished a book that EVERYONE else is reading? Free yourself from the guilt and ask God to show you the treasure of other spiritual reading. God may be guiding you to read a spiritual classic and not the newest book on the market.
Do something you can finish. This may be an odd suggestion, but since you never see ministry finished, do something that gives you a finished product. Jigsaw puzzles, knitting, crocheting, and cross-stitch work for me. I have also learned that coloring in a coloring book is not just for children.
Remember every day why you got into ministry in the first place. Remember who calls you, sends you, and sustains you.
Reflect every day, throughout the day, Where do I see God?. It is difficult to reflect when you are running through life. One of the lessons I have learned from children, particularly my own, is that God can be seen and experienced as I slow down and look around. A walk with a young child can open your eyes to ladybugs, cracks in the sidewalk, clouds, and many other treasures. God is indeed more obvious when I slow down.
I have discovered that if I listen, I can even hear God’s voice in the hobbies that I do. As I cross-stitch, I see many colorful threads woven together into a pattern to make a picture. From a distance, the picture looks wonderfully made. It’s only when you begin to examine it closely that you see the imperfections. You might see places in the fabric where the material is “pulling,” stretched by tightly pulled threads.
Turn the picture over and look at the backside of the design. Sometimes you see neat stitching and well-done knots on a tidy piece of fabric. But sometimes you see loose threads, unraveling stitches, ugly knots that create bumps on the right side of the fabric, or threads stretched almost to their breaking point. Sometimes the underside of the fabric is such a mess that it distorts the original picture and you wonder if the project is worth finishing.
Life is like cross-stitch. We are stretched, pulled, and sometimes unraveling. We might say that we run from one knot to another as we answer God’s call in ministry. The joy of the project before us gets lost in the process.
But it does not have to be this way. Take time to catch your breath from your busy week, take a minute or an hour to just stop. Stop. Remember. Reflect. Commit to seeking God in the midst of the hectic life of ministry. Listen for God’s voice and find peace in the midst of the whirlwind.
Reflect, Love, Laugh, Live
REFLECT every day, throughout the day, Where do I see God?.
LOVE your family and your friends; make them priorities.
LAUGH. Don’t take yourself so seriously! The joy of the Lord can be found in laughter.
LIVE. Go on a vacation (even for a day), go for a walk, read a novel, have a hobby, take care of yourself physically.