Have you ever had that guilty gut-feeling that you don’t actually want to spend time with Jesus? That maybe it actually won’t be so fun, and that you’d rather do something else? Sometimes spending time with God feels overwhelming–which Bible study should we do, how do we journal—-do we have to journal?—,where does this special time need to happen, do we have to pray out loud, and how long do we need to pray for? With so many needs and shoulds in today’s culture, it’s natural to translate those expectations into our time with Jesus. However, God doesn’t call us to meticulously follow a set of regulations; the regulations (the Law) were fully fulfilled and completed in Christ (see Romans 8:1-4). God longs for our hearts. He doesn’t call us to particular regulations; He calls us to rhythms of consistently abiding in His presence. While that can make sense in our heads, it’s tricky to translate into daily life. So here are three ideas of how we can have time with Jesus that is joy-filled and free.
- Invite Jesus into the details of your day. Experience Jesus’s presence while you’re going throughout your day. While it’s important to carve out time to spend exclusively with Jesus, it’s also important to realize He’s with you in the everyday moments of driving to work, cleaning the house, going for a Target run, or watching tv. He is with you. Shared experiences build relationships. So talk with Him as you’re going about your day! It’s fun to have time with Jesus while you’re enjoying His gifts. The gift (whether that’s a loving family member, a job, a tasty breakfast, or a healthy body to explore creation) can point you back to Jesus and remind you to thank Him, because He is the source of all good things (James 1:17). Experiences with Jesus also deepen your relationship with Him because you have shared moments and memories to look back on. What daily activity can you choose to enjoy with Jesus today?
- Jesus calls us uniquely, not uniformly. One of the biggest challenges in my relationship with Jesus is the tendency to compare my relationship with Christ to my friends’ walks with Christ. Some of my dear friends are strong believers, so I admire their relationships with Jesus and am encouraged by their discipleship. While learning from each other is important and beautiful, we must remember that God calls us each uniquely and individually. There is so much freedom in our walks with Christ (Gal. 5:1). For instance, my friends often take extensive and beautiful notes in church services. For a while, I felt that my notes had to look as good as theirs, and it caused me to be stressed out during sermons when I should have been focused on God. I learned that instead of focusing on the nitty gritty details, I needed to look at the general purpose. In my case, instead of worrying about my level of Bible journaling, I can be encouraged by my friends’ focus on God’s Word and seek to focus my own mind and heart on our Heavenly Father. God cares about our hearts and focuses, not about how aesthetically-pleasing our Bibles are. While detailed sermon note-taking brought my friends closer to Jesus, it made me stressed…so I stopped being so focused on it and instead chose to learn in a way that made me feel rested and refreshed. Jesus calls everyone differently, so don’t put unneeded expectations on yourself or on your relationship with Jesus. Just as your friendships look different with different people, your relationship with Jesus will look different than others’ relationships with Him, and that’s perfectly natural. Experience the freedom that is yours in Christ, and allow yourself to explore new ways to worship, connect with, enjoy, serve, and love God.
- Respond to God’s love; don’t try to earn it. How often do we become afraid of coming to God because we’re worried we have to earn His love? Thankfully, we serve a God who gives His love freely and welcomes us into His presence with grace. 1 John 4:18 beautifully states that, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” We know that God loves us…but how often do we forget that because of fear? We’re God’s own children (1 John 3:1), and yet we try to earn God’s love by doing good things instead of gratefully receiving His love and recognizing we could do nothing to deserve it. Of course, this stressful rush of attempting to earn something we can never earn isn’t exactly serene, and tends to cause tension—definitely not making time with God restful and joyful. However, we don’t need to earn a thing. Your relationship with God is not a test; it’s a gift. Live from a place of being loved, not in an attempt to earn love. This mindset shift will change the concept of your relationship with Jesus as you learn to be in relationship out of a place of stable and eternal love, instead of in an effort to earn a right to what you’ve already received through Christ (see Gal. 1:3-5 and Eph. 1:4-7).
Jesus brings abundant life (John 10:10). I hope that these three ideas will lighten your heart and encourage you to come to God as a welcomed, treasured child (see Hebrews 4:14-16 ). He welcomes you and wants to hear your heart. So how will you spend time with Jesus today?