Countercultural

Look Deeper, See Clearer, Run Harder

The Most Important Mark of Spiritual Health

Last week, I wrote about my friend and what to do when God feels distant. One important question helped me determine if she was on the right track:

Do you have a regular time and space to spend time with God?

Look around you. Our world is filled with patterns and rhythms.
Look around you. Our world is filled with patterns and rhythms.

Rhythms of Grace

In general, our lives run on rhythms. We wake up, get ready, go to school or work, come back, go to weekly evening activities, and go to bed.

These rhythms in our lives satisfy both our need for sustenance and our desire for order. We observe daily, weekly, monthly, and annual rhythms to regulate our lives.

Rhythm is no accident. The same God who made the world made the Sabbath and commanded annual observances. He made day and night to regulate our lives and the phases of the moon to regulate months.

Consider the most basic of our daily rhythms: eating and sleeping. Most of us eat three meals a day. When we miss a meal (or a night of sleep!), we feel the effects.

The same is true of our spiritual lives. Our spiritual appetite is much like our natural appetite—with one key difference. When we miss our natural rhythms, our body lets us know through physical signals—hunger and pain. When we neglect spiritual rhythms, the pang of hunger is usually manifested spiritually—either by a lack of fruit or the presence of sin.

Rhythm is no accident.

Regulating our Bipolar Tendencies

I’ve known a couple people who struggle with bipolar. Medication helps them regulate two emotional extremes—toward either manic highs or depressing lows.

Both these carry temptations. When depressed, those struggling with bipolar hardly want to move, much less take medication. And when they feel great, why do they need it?

“The Word of God is like a pill,” my friend Daniel used to tell me. “We don’t always think we need it, but we always need the effects of it.”

We all have the same fluctuating tendencies in our spiritual lives. Some days, after a conference or worship night, we feel incredibly close to God. But the very next day we could feel like God is impossibly far away.

We are all spiritually bipolar, torn between our selfish, sinful desires and the ambition to prove to God how much we love Him. God’s Word reins us in and gives us a foundation to return to each day. We need God’s Word in our lives because we need the effect of God’s Word in our lives.

Promises + Practice = Power

2 Peter 1 is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible. In it, Peter paints this beautiful picture of the power of God’s Word. Summarizing the first part of the chapter, Peter says this:

  1. The knowledge of God through His Word gives us the power to live for Him and escape evil desires (vv. 3-4).
  2. Because of this, we should make every effort to add Christ-like qualities so our knowledge of Him is not ineffective (vv. 5-8).
  3. Whoever does not have these qualities is “so nearsighted he is blind” (v. 9).
  4. If we practice these qualities, we will never stumble and will receive a rich welcome into the heavenly Kingdom (v. 10-11).

God’s “precious and very great promises” (1:3) is the foundation for our practice of love, which ends in a “rich welcome into the heavenly kingdom.”

It sounds so simple only because we forget about our own spiritual blindness. If we aren’t intentional about reading, digesting, and applying God’s Word (His promises), then Peter says it’s like we’re so nearsighted we’re blind. God’s Word helps us see our lives rightly.

So let’s recap where we’ve been. We see God made rhythms as part of creation and intends for us to partake in them. We see the danger of following Jesus based on our feelings and our need to daily recenter ourselves. And finally, we see the promise of heaven, if only we can hold fast and practice God’s promises.

This all brings me back to the question at the start: Do you have a regular time and space to spend time with God?

Whoever you are and whatever season of life you’re in, you daily need God’s promises to regulate your life. You may not always feel the affects of God’s Word, but trust and believe God is able to transform you from the inside out if only you’ll take the time to ground yourself in Him.