Creating Space in Your Life for God

by Alexei Laushkin

So how do we end up creating space in our life for God, for our faith to flourish, for our inner man to grow? How do we grow in daily confidence in order to trust an all gracious and all merciful Lord?

Does such space just happen because we desire it?

How many times have you opened the scriptures or set aside time for prayer and been left feeling that it was rather root and lifeless.

How are we to create such space and such a life for ourselves that we might more fully take on the character and characteristics of Christ.

The Gospels Point to the Way

The beatitudes have some very telling examples. Let’s take a look at some of them in the Gospel of Matthew. Here’s Matthew 5:6:

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.

And Matthew 5:8:

Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.

When I was in college I can remember reading the Sermon on the Mount in this way. So when I read Matthew 5:6. Blessed are those who thirst and hunger for righteousness, I thought to myself, oh Jesus means, blessed are those who really want to be righteous. So if I really want to be righteous than I’m blessed.

It took me years to think differently on some of these passages. Or consider the Psalms. Psalm 34:8:

Taste and see that the Lord is good;
    blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.

Taste, see, thirst, hunger. 

These are all bodily senses. We taste, we see, we thirst, we hunger. When we want food and we don’t have it, we hunger. When we want water and don’t have it we thirst. When we taste we are satisfied. When we see, we believe.

Now let’s go over to the resurrection account in the Gospel of John. Here’s Jesus when Thomas sees him and believes. John 20:29:

Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed’

The senses. They are a powerful tool for confirming and strengthening our faith, and just as powerfully thinking on the beatitudes, working the senses to hunger for Christ the way we hunger for food, to thirst for righteousness the way we might thirst for water, to cultivate the inner eye so that it does see and believe, and to desire the things of God, this takes grace and the physical interacting in such a way that the physical in our life changes.

We are so driven by our senses, that to attune our senses to the things of God is the first step to making time for God. Most of the time when we are having trouble making any time for God it is because our bodies and senses are operating according to a different principle.

If you were a school teacher and in the middle of a lesson to your students you were asked to do a task that was too outside of what you were doing (say prepare a meal), your mind and body would not and could not easily orient to this task being presented in the middle of your focus being elsewhere. You would literally fumble around and likely get irritated for being distracted from the task at hand.

Something very similar happens to our spiritual life, without focus and without the nourishment we need to depend on God and to know that more deeply, we can not bring ourselves to any attention to the things of God.

The Good News

Making time with God, especially time that engages our heart, mind, body, and soul is life giving work. If you attend to the Lord, it will be a rich blessing in your life. For some people, your life might be too busy, and you might literally have to take time away in God’s creation, or a special place that’s important to you to even start. For others, it may be a matter of not trying to fit God in to a busy life, but applying basic Christian principles to your work life or to your home life.

You might decide this week Lord I am going to focus on gratitude, and put attention to saying thank you to everything that you receive. Might be a routine work matter or a simple thank you for a greeting, but if you put attention to letting your faith sink more deeply into your life, you’ll start seeing more and more where you’d like to put your focus.

Growing in Christ, and growing in dependence, is a lifelong endeavor. There are guides for reading through scripture (click here or here), learning how to pray (click here),  finding resources for your kids (click here), and on and on and on.

Finding a good spiritual mentor or brother or elder may very much help you and encourage you in growing in time with God. But if you are having trouble start thinking about how your focus and your spiritual life interacts with your physical life and you’ll quickly find tools and places to grow.

Alexei Laushkin is Vice-President of the Evangelical Environmental Network,  a Board Member of the Kingdom Mission Society,  and writer of the Foolishconfidence blog. His views are his own. 

 

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Things Tend to Fall Apart

“Things treated merely as things in themselves destroy themselves because only in God have they any life” (For the Life of the World by Alexander Schmemann)

Millennials are taught to expect things to be temporary. Whether it’s marriage or mobility, jobs or friendships, everything ends or at least everything tends to fall apart. Seasons come, seasons go. If there is one thing you can count on it’s that you can’t count on very much.

Photo by Corey Holms. Used through flickr creative commons

Photo by Corey Holms. Used through flickr creative commons

These experiences leave us with an impoverished view of friendship. This is a tricky thing to talk about, because you also have to address temporary relationships, the delay of marriage, and the loss of core relationships. If up to half of our parents (before they pass on) will divorce at least once, if we are more likely than not to have had a few possible core dating relationships before we settle on marriage, if we are told to establish ourselves in our careers before we really start putting down roots, if we are just one degree away from the perfect life relationships get handled less like relationships and more like things.

I have heard more than one friend tell me that they have put their relationships on hold to focus on what’s before them (grad school, career, etc.). It’s not a bad idea to prioritize, and if it is hard to imagine sustaining friendships and doing something that your life may depend on than the tendency is to prioritize what is most important. I don’t really have neat, simple solutions to these questions, but I do have another way to look at them.

What if commitment, honesty, forgiveness, and fellowship were to infuse our relationships. A commitment to love despite the circumstances. A true respect for the free will of the person you are relating to. A willingness, even a stubborn refusal to refrain from judging those who let you down. The honesty and the courage to be ourselves in relationship. The ability to forgive and to reconcile when things do come up. And the regular fellowship which is to mark the life of the Christian. The Christian life is lived in community. When we view community as primer to our health and not a secondary obligation, we can begin to be creative enough to serve, be, and be known by others. If we put Christ central in our relationships than he can light the way to relating to neighbors as fallen as each one of us. These values can help us in any season.

As you look at your life, who is your primary community (think of people and names)? Do you put the time and communication necessary to keep that community vibrant? How can you reconnect with someone today?

May the Lord bless you and keep you,
Alexei

Thoughts for a College Student

I think back to life in college and I ask myself what do I wish I had known back then that I know now.  It’s not an easy question, or at least it’s not as easy as it sounds. I came to college a fairly stubborn young man. I didn’t want anything to do with Christian fellowship. I had my life or at least some thoughts mapped out. I would use my time in college to get more involved in politics, to master Russian, and perhaps learn foreign policy. I was set. Sure faith was important, but I lived so close to home, so my church at home would still be my primary community.

What I wish someone had done back then was to sit me down and challenge me. Challenge my mind, my life, my heart, and my young ideas and lay out some thoughts, some check in points for growth, development, and maturity. To be honest I wish there had been more structure and forethought put in to my development as a Christian adult.  I wish that the tools I acquired later had been available sooner and in a manner which would have them easier to digest.

If I were to layout a prescription for the life of the Christian by college year it would look something like this (this is by no means an exhaustive list).

FRESHMAN YEAR

SOPHOMORE YEAR 

JUNIOR YEAR

SENIOR YEAR

These books expose you to living the Christian life, church history, some basic theology, and the tools needed as Eugene Peterson puts it for “a long obedience in the same direction.” Books aren’t the only thing central to the Christian life. Fellowship, spiritual disciplines, a heart for worship, and a passion for the Kingdom don’t come from books alone, but the life of the mind has to be developed and engaged. College is the perfect time for developing a vibrant life of faith. You can develop it later or more gradually as I did, but I think having these tools sooner would have given me more tools for the journey.