Maybe I should have saved this post for this time next month, but I'd forget by then. 😉
Anyway... I was thinking the other day about how I can never do a devotional. I've tried--granted, that's been years ago when I was nine or ten--but my point remains the same. I can't even keep a diary, journal, or monthly planner. (I mean, for all my love of schedules and writing and such, I. just. can't.) I'm good to read my Bible every night, so it's not like I'm a hypocrite or a weekend Christian, but me and devotionals just don't jive.
My dad has all sorts of nonfiction--from devotionals to commentaries to a great deal of Jonathan Cahn. And his mom? Like a billion times as much. It's crazy. And Dad's pretty good at reading everyday--which, I've surmised, is why he takes so blasted long in the bathroom.
But I'm not a "devotional girl." I can remember seeing a relative of mine having, like, two journals, her Bible, and seventeen different books all spread out on a table and thinking, "Man, I feel like a bad Christian because I can't make myself commit." (Sounds worse when I put it like that, huh?) Even when I was younger and had all these girly devotionals and Christian "self-help" books--think A Girl After God's Own Heart®: A Tween Adventure with Jesus--it was a chore to have to read and write in them. (Go figure, this was all before I had semi-legible handwriting and liked to write in the first place.)
Now, just a heads-up, I'm not bashing devotions because, for a lot of people, it's gets them in the Word, it connects them with God, it helps them set aside quiet time to reflect. They're a serious blessing for those with busy schedules and hectic lives who need those tidbits of truth every morning.
But as I was thinking about my inability to commit, I started thinking about those who substitute the a devotion for the Word of God, who read instead of pray, who mark all their boxes on Sunday morning, who depend on what Jon Courson, Beth Moore, Lysa TerKeurst, Max Lucado, David Jeremiah, and Kenneth E. Hagin say to boost their faith. Or those whose "faith" is the Sunday morning sermon, who base their beliefs on their pastor, their parents, their grandma's prayers, who put all their stock into going to church three times a week and tithing ten percent.
This is not faith. At all.
Faith is, as it says in Hebrews 4 verse 11, the evidence of things not seen, the substance of things hoped for. Trust is what we put in a sturdy chair to hold us up, in our gassed-up car to get us to work, in our mom or wife to be home as always to cook dinner. We can see those things--we don't need proof of their existence because we have already witnessed them firsthand. We don't hope for them to miraculously work or come about--we trust. But what about your next-door neighbor who's left the kids to drink every Friday night? You can't trust them to be home or sober or fit to care for their family. So when they come home from rehab and claim to be sober, it seems impossible to believe--but you have faith, in what you're hoping for and what you can't see. That's different than trust because you have nothing to base it on--it's freestanding, independent. There is no seen or felt proof of its existence, no past experience to remind you...nothing. It's elusive, illusive, an ideal, a hope, a prayer--a belief. Not a theory--there's evidence. Not a claim--there's proof. Not a hypothesis--there's research to back it up.
So, yeah, I suppose that makes Atheists much more "faithful" than Christians, because, like with the wind, we see the power of God and His glory, but they have nothing to base their beliefs upon.
But true independence all starts with our faith. Is it faith...or is it trust?
When your pastor has an affair...what do you do? Quit going to church? Distrust all proclaimed Christians? Give up on God? You've been trusting in an imperfect person to feed your "faith."
When your grandmother dies painfully, for all of her prayers and God-honoring ways...what do you do? Do you discredit the Word? Do you disregard His promises of a new life? Do you forget the truth? You've been trusting in another person's life, in their faith, to become yours.
When your infant child is born without a heart...what do you do? Do you blame God? Do you forget His secure promises--"for I know the plans I have for you...to give you a hope and a future" and "there is a time to be born and a time to die"? You've been trusting in your plans and your will and your this-is-how-it-should-be to be your faith and your reassurance. You've been trusting in the goodness of God to the point that you forget the harsh reality of life and His sovereign control--over everything.
When a pandemic befalls the entire world...what do you do? Do you follow all the rules and believe everything you hear? Do you cower in fear? Do you proclaim we near the end? You've been trusting in what you can see. But there is so much more. There is a future we will never see--at least in this life. There is a plan we cannot even dream of. There is an amazing God in control of everything--the government officials, the doctors' hands, the evil forces behind the scenes, the virus itself. And when the devil intervenes, Who knows the future? Who redirects our stupid mistakes and the devil's feeble attempts toward Him and His Kingdom and His glory?
And He is our faith. We cannot place faith in what we can see or what we think or in what someone does or someone says or in their faith. That's not faith--that's trust, and very few things are trustworthy in this world. In fact, only God Himself deserves our trust. And only in Him can we put our faith.
So...that's true independence. And it's available to everyone. You don't have to live in America to be independent. You don't need equal rights. You don't need to be 18 or 21 and out of the house. You don't need to be single. You don't need anything. That's the point. You can't depend on anything or anyone but God--because all else, guaranteed, will fail you. Faith is independent and independence in and of itself. When you place your faith in God and nothing else, you've cut off all ties to everything. To a corrupt government, to your social class, to your drug addiction, to your abusive spouse, to your sordid past, to your parents, to what the pastor says, to whatever it is that you depend on. Faith is independent of all these earthly, material, imperfect things. And because God is not of this earth and is not material and is absolutely perfect, our dependence upon Him is independent of everything that drags us down and chips away at our beliefs--and now, no matter what life brings, there will be no hills and valleys in your relationship with Him. Your faith is not affected by what happens in life or on this earth--faith is not of the world.
So...in conclusion, the moral of the story is that you don't have to feel bad if you don't do your devotions. Trust me, there's much more to faith than that.
(Originally published June 3rd, 2020.)