I used to think being a godly woman meant getting up early to read my Bible and pray every morning.
The only problem is I don’t process thoughts or words early in the morning, so I’d beat myself up for being distracted and groggy. One day, God interrupted me with this thought: Renee, I made you. I know you are not a morning person. I know you like variety. I created you, so work with Me.
I felt like God was telling me to spend time with Him but not to put so much pressure on myself.
From that point on, my time with God has been more adventurous and enjoyable. Some days I sit with God and read or pray. Other days I go running and listen to my Bible on my iPod. Then I’ll pray and talk to God while I am walking back home.The point is I’m free now to spend time with God in ways that fit my personality, and I love it!
– Renee Swope
Think about your closest friends. Do you have to act like someone you’re not for them to enjoy spending time with you? Of course not. (Or if you do, I am very sorry, because that is not how friendship should work.) They enjoy your company because you’re you, even if they sometimes get annoyed with things about you.
God created you. He knows you very well. And he wants to spend time with you. But if you’re not acting like you and can’t connect with him because of that, that time doesn’t do anyone any good and you may need to reevaluate your methods. Or you might be using methods that worked at one point in your life but do not work now.
Just like there are a plethora of ways to spend time with your friends, there are a plethora of ways to spend time with God. Have a few ideas. Some of these are things I do; some are not. This list is far from exhaustive, and obviously you should take any suggestions with a grain of salt.
- Pick a topic of the year. Or the month. Or the week. Study Bible verses and books about that topic.
- Read through the Bible in a year. You can find lots of schedules online. Or if you like a bit more freedom, I learned from my favorite teacher that reading about three pages a day (or five in a study Bible) will get you through the whole thing in a year. (I’ve tried it; it works. It’s one of the most practically useful things I learned while at college.)
- Listen to the Bible. While you’re driving. Or exercising. Or cleaning the house. Or coloring.
- Journal your prayers.
- Try a different Bible translation. There are dozens. Have a list. Reading new translations often brings out things you would never have noticed in the one you’re used to. You could even try a different language altogether.
- Read books about God and the Bible. You can tackle things you’ve always intended to read, ask people for suggestions, or just pull books off the library shelf. (Obviously you might encounter some weird stuff doing this, but that can be good, too; sometimes reading about things you disagree with helps you articulate why you believe what you do.) I’ve been reading more of these sorts of books lately, and I’m running out of ideas. This is me asking for suggestions. A few I recommend are: Redigging the Wells by Monroe Hawley, The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis, Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver, and Finding God in Unexpected Places by Philip Yancy.
- Try scripture writing.
- Try some things that people throughout the ages have uses as ways to focus on God, such as fasting or praying at specific times. I read a book called Flunking Sainthood by Jana Riess in which the author described a year where she did just this. I actually didn’t like the book much; the author made some good points, but I thought a lot of it was kind of silly. (Also, a warning if you’re planning on investigating, because it took me completely by surprise and I would have appreciated a warning: there’s some unfortunate language in it.) But if you’re looking for ideas, it might give you a place to start.
- If there’s a Christian college near you, or you can find one that offers classes online, and you have the money and time to make the commitment, take a class on a Bible topic you would like to know more about but don’t feel qualified to study for yourself. I learned a lot in my Bible classes that I would never have discovered for myself, and I also gained tools for understanding the Bible that I might have never learned or might have taken much longer to learn.
- Study with someone else. Ask someone you respect, or a good friend, or someone you would like to know better. Different perspectives can be enlightening.
- Go for a walk and talk to God while you walk.
- Listen to hymns and the like while driving. Singing along is good, too.
- Memorize scripture.
- Try a different time of day for your devotionals.
- Come up with your own ideas and try them out.
Going into this new year, if you feel like you’re stuck in a rut, or if you’ve never been able to stick with ways to spend time with God, try something new. Even if you think you’re doing pretty well, try something new; you may make pleasantly surprising discoveries.