It’s been a long quick year. So much has happened, personally and globally. There’s been pain and joy and progress and failure. It’s all been very overwhelming and extremely stressful but in the grand scheme of things, totally normal and absolutely human.
Because this is what it all comes down to:
“When I said, ‘My foot is slipping,’ your unfailing love, LORD, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.”
~ Psalm 94:18-19
Our feet will slip; there is no question about it. The real question is; who do we cry out to when we are falling? This past year has been a real eye opener for me in terms of what I need spiritually, and what I need to do to fulfil those needs. God provides – always – but He cannot force us to receive that provision or accept responsibility for the receiving of our salvation and continued purification.
There will be pain, whether we hold onto your faith or not. There will be hard times and we must learn to battle through them. How comforting then, to know that self-control is amongst the fruit of the Spirit (Galations 5:22). Self-control enables us to practice the Word of God, which we are promised will guide us through those rough times:
“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”
~ Psalm 119:105
Self-control enables us to fulfil those spiritual needs we all have:
- The need for community
For me this is a priority because I am an introvert and reading the Bible isn’t so much a challenge for me as interacting with my spiritual family is. But it is being revealed to me over and over how important fellowship is. Not just to be around other people who are like-minded, but to have deep conversations; to teach each other through “the sharing of [our] faith [which] may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ” (Philemon 1:6); and to “encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today’, so that none of [us] may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3:13).
As I dare to deepen my relationships, I am encountering a richness that has led to a fuller understanding of our shared sinful nature and the power of confession. It has led to greater joy and a strengthened mind. But ultimately, it is the revealing of a glimpse of what God wants us to know of the community He holds and has allowed us access to through Jesus.
- The need for spiritual food
Hebrews 1:1 says, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” And John 1:1 tells us, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
Jesus – our Saviour – is the Word. We can find life in the pages of the book we so often take for granted. I own at least three Bibles, yet fail to spend time reading any of them on a daily basis. Why? Perhaps fear, or ignorance, but most certainly laziness and a lack of self-control. Modern life has taken a strong hold of me and honestly, I would rather spend an hour on Facebook than ten minutes reading Scripture. It shames me just to write that, but I know it is the truth and not just for me, but for so many people my age who would consider themselves a Christian.
For so long I have struggled with this. Oddly, the one thing that has been key to bringing me back to reading more is community.
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21). Social media can be a minefield of comparisons with drastic effects on our mental health – but it can also be a safe place of study and companionship and support. Currently I have the privilege of walking alongside 90 odd women as one amazing friend leads us through the book of Mark, and it is an absolutely incredible experience.
One on one Bible studies using YouVersion study plans are another great option to deepen relationships with other people and with the Word and is proving to be an easy way to get back into regular reading of the Bible, whilst also gaining a better understanding of what it is I am reading.
Just as useful are the huge amounts of resources available written by other Christians. Knowledge is a precious gift from God (Proverbs 2:6), and again we can only gain access to it by tapping into the wonderful circle of fellowship that is made up of millions of people across the globe. Books, audiobooks, Bible study tools and guides, just to name a few, are easily accessible for the vast majority of us. We have no excuse to not utilise them.
- The need for divine company
Everything we do should be directed towards this; the ultimate need for divine company. The most direct method of divine company is prayer; the acknowledgement of God’s sovereignty and our desire to come closer to Him.
“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” (James 4:8).
In the most difficult times of my life, prayer has been a real struggle – not because I did not believe God was hearing my prayers, but because I felt myself how monotonous and repetitious each prayer was. I questioned the sincerity of my heart, and that led to more questions. Why do we pray? Doesn’t God already know what we need? If prayer is meant to be transforming us, why has it not happened to me yet? Do I really mean what I pray? What was I actually doing for the people I was praying for through prayer?
My questions were not satisfied with answers. The repetition continued, the monotony grew. I stopped praying. It was easier not to pray, but that did not make life itself any easier – the distance between myself and the God I worshipped, grew.
- The need for community
Without prayer, there can be no relationship. Without the Word, we have no knowledge. And without fellowship, we have no understanding of why this circle of giving and receiving is so important.
My foot slipped. The road was rocky and I stumbled in prayer, only to come to a halt – not realising that it was prayer that was keeping me from falling. That is the importance of prayer. It is our crutch, our support; something we cannot afford to give up. God is our crutch, our support; the One we cannot afford to give up.
The road is still rocky. I am still stumbling. But I am also learning. Though it has taken me this long to arrive at these realisations, I know that just like Gideon (Judges 7:9-15), God will give me just the right messages I need to hear at just the right time to give me just the right amount of strength to get me through the right trials that will shape me into the kind of person God wants me to be.
It’s been a slow haul, but I am back on track!