Relationship > Religion
I'm going to be honest with you, sharing these posts with you that dig deep into my heart and some of my personal life isn't always easy for me. I'd like to be able to say I have everything together, that I'm consistent, and disciplined, that I know how to say no to the things I can't/don't want to do, and that I eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day -- or is it six? But I'm not, and I don't. I'm still learning how to trust God. I'm still learning how to be consistent in my prayer life. I'm still learning how to discipline myself into reading my Bible every single day.
I wish I would've had some sort of guide sheet to help me out when I graduated Bible college. Something that would've said, "Okay, so from May till about February of the next year, you're going to feel really lonely, you're going to feel like you've failed, you're going to feel like you've gone to the place of no return. But hey, it gets better. And around May, you'll finally start dreaming again, but listen - around September, things are going to get really busy for you, and it's going to be hard for you to focus on your relationship with God. Here's what you need to do..." and then it would go on to give me a list of things I need to do, step by step, and what I need to say, phrase by phrase, to stay close to God. Unfortunately, life doesn't work quite like that. The cool thing is though, we have so many resources nowadays that really encourage our walk with God to be the best it can be.
Look, I've been the exact person or "heathen" that Jesus talked about in Matthew 6:7 when He mentioned using "vain repetitions". All of the things I was saying to God during prayer were true, of course, but they weren't coming from my heart. I would look at my phone right before I started prayer to check the time, and then I'd check my phone right after to see if I had prayed "long enough."
It's embarrassing to admit that, and it's also hard for me to admit that I thought since I went to bible college, I would "have it all together" after graduating. WRONG. So, so wrong.
Along the way, I've found some things that have really helped me in my relationship with God; things that have redirected me to the feet of Jesus. I want to share those things with you today.
01. First Five App - I discovered this app a while ago while scrolling through Instagram and I mean it when I say that this app has encouraged me so, so much. It's an app designed completely for young ladies + women, and it's full of devotionals, videos, and discussions on the Bible. There is even a portion on the app that has each book of the Bible, and each chapter has a daily devotional attached to it. Sometimes I'm reading through scripture and I'm just like, "Okay, this is awesome but how can I apply this to my life?" So I'll go on and check the First Five app, and most of the time, there's a devotional for that scripture. They empower me and encourage me and remind me that God is for me. God will help me overcome.
02. A worship playlist - For me, this is sometimes difficult, because I find myself sometimes focusing more on the song than I am on Jesus during my prayer time. But, I do have a playlist of about 10-12 songs that I absolutely love and can listen to over and over again. They're not wordy, they're very simple, and very repetitive but they really help me engage in my prayer time. If music isn't your thing, that's totally cool. Or if music with lyrics in them make it too hard for you to focus, I encourage you to find some worship music without lyrics in it. Bethel has an amazing instrumental album, and I'm sure they're not the only ones. Do what works for you.
03. Understand that you will never "arrive" in your relationship with God - One of my friends told me this once, and you know at first I wanted to be like "Well then, why am I trying?" But he explained to me, that's the beauty of God. If we had the ability to reach the "highest level" in God, what would be the point? Would we be striving to know Him or just to reach a greater level of power and knowledge? There is so much grace and mercy wrapped up in the fact that we will never, ever learn as much about Him as we possibly can. We will never be "all finished" searching after God. There is always more to be found in Him, there is always a greater depth to seek after. My goodness, there's such beauty in that.
04. Messages - I listen to messages online all the time. Since I'm so involved with my youth group, a lot of Sunday mornings are spent in their class, and I'm not able to listen to the sermon in the main sanctuary. YouTube is my favorite resource for finding amazing preachings. You can look up any topic on YouTube and find a preaching for it. I genuinely believe that you need sermons and messages to solidify your walk with God.
05. Talk with my friends - My friends are typically the first people I go to when I feel like I'm disconnected in my prayer life. There will be friends you go through seasons with, and you can encourage each other. And then there will be friends who are on the mountain top while you're in the valley, and they can pull you up and say, "Hey. This is what you're doing. This is what you need to be doing. You're going to make it. You're going to get through this. Let me help pull you up." Friends that fast with you, friends that pray with you, that send you encouraging scriptures. You need those friends your life. Also, you need mentors. This could be a completely different bullet point, but I'll just stick that in there. Find someone older than you -- someone who has gone through the valleys and mountaintops of life and is still standing, handing the hold of God. Get those voices in your life and let them speak destiny and life over you.
Honestly, at the end of the day we could talk all day long about how you need to find balance, and how sometimes you just go through seasons. But I don't agree. I believe that God wants a relationship with us 365 days of the year, 24 hours of the day, 7 days of the week. That's where relationship comes into play. It's not hard to stay in a relationship with Jesus, but it is hard to maintain a lifeless, fruitless religion-filled life where you can find nothing to say but vain repetitions that aren't coming from your heart. When you're lovesick for somebody, it's not hard to find things to say. It's not hard to sustain that kind of relationship.
A relationship with Jesus will always bear good fruit. It will always bring healing, and strength, comfort, deliverance, and joy. Religion will only make us realize how flawed we really are. It points at our failures, our mishaps, our shortcomings. It steals the joy from our hearts. Religion will never bear fruit. Relationship with Jesus is all there is, it's the reason we do the things we do, the reason we dress the way we dress, separate ourselves from the things we believe cannot bring glory to God.
Even when we struggle, even when we're hurting, and disappointed and it's hard to talk to God, because we maybe blame Him for some of the things that have happened -- coming to Him, time after time, after time, after time will always be greater than knowing everything about Him just to say "Yeah, I knew that already..." Do you see what I'm saying? Head knowledge < heart knowledge, religion < relationship. Any day.
All my love,