If you’re like me, it doesn’t take long in a new year to start feeling the “blahs.” Prone to over-achievement, comparison, envy and a whole host of other ills, I eventually start looking around me and wondering why everyone else seems so content, joyful, effective and purposeful as they go about their daily lives.
This is apparently a wrong assumption, because in polling four or five people (not a scientific sample), not one of them said they felt especially content, joyful, effective or purposeful in life right now.
I’ve been to this rodeo enough times to know that such restlessness is at its root a spiritual problem. And a spiritual problem needs nothing less than a spiritual solution.
God makes this solution very clear in Revelation 2:2-4 when He addresses the church in Ephesus:
I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.
When it comes to spiritual things, many of us are doing the right things for the wrong reasons. Conversely, some of us aren’t doing much of anything at all. Wouldn’t you love for this year to be different? If you want to see Jesus in a fresh way and are over your tired routine of verse-a-day apps, smug intellectualism, tepid worship and works-based striving, here are eight things I tried and loved last year — things that made me grow, think, shout, cry — and in some cases, stop in my tracks and think, Whoa. God is good.
Join a Bible study. If you’re not in a Bible study, what are you waiting for? Drifting in and out of church isn’t it. Listening to podcasts (including “The Boundless Show“) isn’t it. You need to find a group of committed Christians who are digging into God’s Word regularly. They’re studying it, discussing it and living it. They’ll help you do the same. Avoid groups that are just chat-fests or studies of what a bunch of other people are saying about other people. Actually study the Bible. It’s the only thing that has the power to supernaturally transform you.
Read your Bible daily. This can happen many ways. For me, I’m part of a Bible study (see above) that has homework. We have lessons to complete on our own throughout the week. I need this structure, direction and accountability to get into God’s Word. No shame, y’all. You may be cool to read through the Bible from cover to cover. Or maybe there’s a personal study you can do on your own. Either way, find someone to join you in discussing what you’re learning. Don’t settle for cutesy “minute-a-day” stuff. Sometimes that has its place, but if you want to see growth, you need spiritual meat — not Twizzlers.
Read a missionary biography. There’s nothing more effective at making you recognize your own spiritual lameness than reading about some of the Christian greats. Just kidding. Actually, biographies of rad Christians pump me up. They show God’s goodness through the generations and in unique situations. They prove that God is working. A few of my favorites are “Bruchko,” “Peace Child” and “Through Gates of Splendor,” but there are just so many. Hudson Taylor, Amy Carmichael…the list goes on. Give one a try. It’s adventure, peril, history and faith all in one place.
Start a prayer journal of “asks” and “answers.” Too often we complicate prayer. If you’re not a seasoned pray-er, to start your prayer time each day with one hour of praying for Muslim countries is gonna spell failure. Instead, pray about what you care about: you. Write down a list of things you want to ask God for or about, and start talking. I did this, and found that I’m really good at praying when it’s about me and the people/things that matter to me. And I am seeing God answer (I write answers down, too.) What’s crazy is that as God strengthens my prayer muscle, I start caring about bigger and better things.
Listen to more Christian music. Don’t get all uppity on me and say that there’s no quality Christian music out there and blah, blah, blah. I hardly listened to Christian music for over 10 years. Then, when I was in the throes of caregiving for my mom with dementia, it was all I could listen to. I’m tearing up right now as I recall how certain songs spoke to me during that time. Rock, hip-hop, hymns, megachurch-worship-team-conglomerates…you choose. But whether it’s TobyMac’s “Feel It,” Lauren Daigle’s “Still Rolling Stones,” MercyMe’s “Flawless” or Handel’s “Worthy Is the Lamb,” I dare you to try to not tap your feet or burst into song.
Recognize “God moments.” It’s easy to go through your day in a haze of sameness. Work, chores, errands, obligations, Netflix, repeat. But what about that conversation with a coworker? What about the unexpected discount you got on your Amazon order? What about today’s sunrise? A restored relationship? A kind (and surprising) word? Notice where God is showing up in your day, then stop and thank Him for it. Write a few down. Seek to be the “God moment” in someone else’s day. It’s contagious.
Ask a new Christian to tell you their story. If you’ve been “doing Christianity” for a while, get ready to be blown away. Find a new believer and ask them to share their testimony of how they became a Christian. You will be encouraged, challenged and reignited with passion for the gift of grace. In this person’s face, voice — everything — it’s still so real. Personally, I’ve heard of someone getting saved through everything from Dave Ramsey’s radio show to a weekend men’s retreat to the love and example of a coworker to wandering into a random church one Sunday. God draws people to himself; never forget that. He’s at work.
Give money you can’t afford to give. For me, this came in a missions challenge at church last year. Our pastor said that the Church is responsible for sending and equipping believers to go around the globe, and how can we do that if people don’t give? What’s more, if missionaries had their churches sending them and providing for them, they wouldn’t have to waste half their time tootling around asking people for support. I pledged to give an amount that was not in my budget. Nowhere near it. God helped me meet my commitment as I stepped out in faith, and I can’t wait to hear the stories of what He’s doing with His money that just happened to come out of my account.
Comment below with other ways to jump-start your faith this year. I’d love to learn from you, too. Because sometimes we need to be reminded that if we ask, God will gladly give us back the “joy of our salvation” (Psalm 51:12).
Copyright 2019 Lisa Anderson. All rights reserved.