Thirsty. I was so thirsty. Not physically. Here in Tennessee, there’s so much humidity in the air you meet your water-per-day quota just by breathing in as you scramble from your car to whatever air-conditioned haven you’re headed for.
No, I’m talking about spiritual thirst.
My spirit felt dry and scratchy, and I couldn’t think of anything that had changed in my spiritual walk. So I assumed that my thirst was the result of some weak or sinful area of my life that God was trying to point out. Determined to fix the problem myself—whatever it was—I began examining all the activities that took up time in my life and passing or failing them based on two criterion: Does this honor God? and Does this contribute to my spiritual growth? I decided that activities which didn’t do one or the other were to be abandoned. Period.
This purging process went on for so long that when I finally glanced up to see the progress, I was shocked to find a desert. With the exception of work, church, and school—the things I had determined brought pleasure to God—my life was, well, lifeless. I had tossed out relationships, recreation time, and countless other small pleasures I had deemed unworthy of a “serious” Christian’s time.
Confused, frustrated, and even thirstier than before, I questioned God: Look, I ditched all that extraneous stuff so I could have more of You. Why do I feel so dry? I do the right things. I don’t place any value on meaningless activities. Don’t you think I’m more holy now?
God let me wallow in dissatisfaction and emptiness for a good while. But then He spoke. And, oh, what a lesson He taught.
(Let me just be honest: I’m a sucker for daily devotionals. So often they speak directly to an issue I’m facing and I’m pretty sure it’s because God finds pleasure in communicating with those who spend time in His Word. By the way, if you’re in the market for good devo, Jesus Calling by Sarah Young and My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers are both fantastic.)
On May 15th, I received Rick Warren’s e-mail devotional in my inbox, entitled “God Smiles When We Use Our Abilities.” I want to make God smile, I thought to myself. I’m tired of this emptiness. Here’s what it said:
“You may feel that the only time God is pleased with you is when you’re doing ‘spiritual’ activities.”
Yep, I sure do.
“And you may think God is unconcerned about the other parts of your life.”
Well, if they don’t honor Him or grow me spiritually, He probably disapproves.
“Actually, God enjoys watching every detail of your life, whether you are working, playing, resting, or eating.”
WHAT?? Is this true, God?
And as if the King of kings and I were having a face-to-face conversation, He answered my query with the words in the devotional: “Every human activity, except sin, can be done for [My] pleasure if you do it with the attitude of praise.”
Suddenly I understood why the purging of all those things had made me feel dry and dissatisfied: I had robbed my life of many of the gifts God gave me to enjoy. Of course He wants me—all of us who love Him—to honor Him and to put Him first. But in our pursuit of righteousness, who said we have to trade joy for burden? Who said holiness and happiness can’t go hand in hand?
I forget that God is a loving Father, eager to see His kids enjoy the things He made. So, I’m going to take myself a little less seriously. I’m going to let the Holy Spirit rather than my own criterion tell me what things in life are worth my time. Jesus said, and I believe Him now, that His “yoke is easy and [His] burden is light” (Matthew 11:30). I want that yoke.
What has God given you to enjoy that isn’t necessarily spiritual?
How do you pursue your spiritual life without completely checking out of your earthly life?
What heavy burden will you trade for His light one?
As you, small group members and leaders, continue down your spiritual journeys with God, I pray He shows you clearly how much He loves you and wants you to have all the fruits of His Spirit, including joy, even in the simple things.