It happened again. I had committed to reading the Bible at the end of the day, and now it was the end of the day. I was tired, grumpy, and ready for sleep. So I went to bed, convinced I would read the Bible in the morning.
So the cycle continues.
Why is it that some days we struggle to spend time with God? We know all of the benefits. We know that we’ll regret it if we don’t, and we know that we’ll love it once we start. Yet often, our hearts just don’t feel like they’re in it. It can be days or weeks before we realize the last time we picked up our Bibles was longer ago than we thought. So we renew our efforts, commit to read again, and last for a day or two before forgetting again. Again!
Sometimes our forgetting is more intentional. Maybe we know what God says is good and right, but we’d rather do something else which he might disapprove of. We don’t want to spend time with God because we’re afraid of what he might think of us, so we just avoid him instead.
Friends, we’ve all been here, but we don’t have to stay here. Even now, God can renew a passion and right view of spending time with him.
Desiring Time With Jesus
The Gospel of Mark shares many stories of normal people—just like you and me—who want to be close to and spend time with Jesus. We read about crowds that followed Jesus from place to place, eager to hear his teaching and receive his healing (Mark 5: 21–24). We read of crowds pressing into Jesus (Mark 5:24) and a woman desperate to touch even his clothes (Mark 5:27–28).
But some time before this, we read of a man possessed by many demons, who called themselves Legion (Mark 5:9). Many of us have heard this story before. The possessed man’s life consisted of living in the tombs, unrestrained strength, loneliness, and great pain. But one day, Jesus cast out the demons from the man and permitted the demons to enter a herd of pigs, which dramatically charged off the cliff and into the water to their death (Mark 5:1–13).
When the crowds came to see what Jesus had done, they saw the once-possessed man, “clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid,” and they begged Jesus to leave; so he did (Mark 5:15–16).
I’m sure all of the Gerasenes let out a collective sigh of relief as Jesus stepped foot into his boat; all except one. The crowds desired Jesus to go away, but the once-possessed man desired to go wherever Jesus was. Mark tells us that this man begged Jesus “that he might be with him” (Mark 5:18). Above all else, this man desired to be with Jesus—not just to go with him, or to benefit from him, but to be with him.
Do you long for this man’s desire to be with Jesus like I do?
Throughout Mark, we get picture after picture of how the crowds responded to Jesus: fear, anger, belief, unbelief, confusion, uncertainty. But here, we have the simplicity of someone wanting Jesus near—of someone just wanting to be close to Jesus.
Our lives don’t always match this man’s response to Jesus’ mercy. We know all of the good he has done for us, we know his sacrifice on our behalf, but sometimes, devotionals feel tired, prayer feels too hard, and going to church feels stressful. We often need reminders that spending time with God is not just felt but is cultivated and practiced in his presence.
Spend Time in Prayer and Gratitude
Did you know that Scripture tells us exactly what God’s will is for our lives? 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18 says:
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
In other words, God’s will for us is to rejoice, pray, and give thanks often. Desire for God is cultivated in the time we spend with him.
If I’m honest, I’m not the best at gratitude. It doesn’t take much for me to enter a spiral of ingratitude, a never-ending cycle of pity parties and certainty that God doesn’t care much for me after all. But, I find that when I begin to write down good gifts around me, I have a lot more to be thankful for than I originally thought.
So, spend time writing down 5-10 things you’re thankful for. Then, praise the one who created and gave those good gifts to you, naming them one by one. Give attention to the one who created and not just what was created.
Perhaps one of the most beautiful aspects of prayer we forget is that God wants to spend time with us. In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis writes: “[God] has infinite attention to spare for each one of us. He does not have to deal with us in the mass. You are as much alone with Him as if you were the only being He had ever created.”1 When we pray, worship, and express gratitude, we do so to a God who is with us and who cares about us. We do so to a God who actively listens and whose attention is on us.
Spend Time Getting to Know Jesus Through The Gospels
We often spend a lot of time studying Jesus’ teaching without getting to know Christ. Remember, the once possessed man desired not just Jesus’ teaching, but he desired Jesus himself.
If you’re in between reading plans, choose a Gospel to read—Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John—and commit to drawing closer to and worshiping the Christ who lives. The Christ who came as a baby, walked this earth, healed the sick, forgave sinners, raised the dead, died for us, and rose again is alive, seated right now at God’s right hand.2 We can know him through Scripture.
Recently, I read through Mark in one sitting. I read about a father who longed for his son to be healed, a paralyzed man and his friends who had great faith, and disciples who feared a storm, a ghost. I noticed religious leaders and disciples alike whose pride got the best of them at the worst times possible.
But I also noticed Jesus, his kindness and his compassion, more clearly than I had ever seen him before. I longed to know the man who healed the sick, ate with sinners, and loved people well. I longed to know Jesus; I longed to spend time with him.
Share What You Know
You might think that Jesus honored the once possessed man’s request to come with him and his disciples, but he didn’t. Jesus had a different purpose for this man:
“Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”Mark 5:19
The man did just this, and amazingly, the people he shared with marveled at what Jesus had done (Mark 5:20). This man enjoyed the presence of Jesus and left completely changed; everyone knew it.
At one point in his ministry, Jesus preached to the crowds: “Out of the abundance of the heart [a person’s] mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45b). He wanted crowds to know that whatever it was they treasured, this is what would come out of their mouths; this is what they would speak of.
But what about us? What do we talk about with our friends, co-workers, and loved ones? What takes up the most space in our minds and in our hearts? We can only speak about what our hearts know and love.
Friends, do you see why we need a renewed vision and passion for spending time with God? Even at this hour, we can enjoy the presence of our God through the person of Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit. Why would we wait even a minute longer to enjoy his presence?
Why would we wait even a minute longer to be with him?
1 Lewis, C.S. Mere Christianity, 168.
2 Hebrews 1:3
Photo Credit: @emileecarpenterllc
Ashley Anthony is a pastor’s wife, mom of four, literature instructor, and seminary student. She’s a member of College Church in Wheaton, Illinois, loves a good cup of coffee, and loves connecting on Instagram!