Quiet Time Guilt

The month before graduating from college, your school will send you countless surveys about your college experience. They come to terms with the fact that you have paid them your last thousand dollars and decide to milk you for information and experience instead.
These surveys force self-reflection on how you have or have not improved in the process of obtaining a degree. In a Christian university, this reflection also includes a spiritual assessment. “How often do you complete personal devotions?” “How often do you intentionally pray?” “How often do you meet with a spiritual mentor?” I blushed as I went down the line answering “Rarely/Never.”

Sadly, this kind of embarrassment and guilt is not an isolated occurrence. I always tell myself, “Tomorrow I’ll start reading my Bible. Maybe I’ll start when I am less busy.” Needless to say, the less-busy tomorrow never arrives.

Still, I am hopeful that my failure is not a problem I face alone. Even though I have not been a faithful child, God is reminding me that He is still jealous for me.

I have tried to guilt myself into reading my Bible or praying so many times. I would see my roommates faithfully reading their Bibles in the morning as I scrolled through Facebook and ate my oatmeal. I heard countless chapel speakers tell me how important quiet time was. I compared myself to a younger me who journaled prayers and scripture. All these things filled me with plenty of guilt, but none of them motivated me toward a relationship.

Need has been what motivated me over the last few years in college: I cannot deal with this schedule; I cannot love this person; I cannot overcome this sin; I cannot do anything without God. I need His words and His life in me. When the Holy Spirit moves in me and tells me that I have a hole in my life that only God can satisfy, that is when I close my eyes and pray.

Both guilt and neediness are uncomfortable feelings. However, the solution to one is better performance and a rebuilding of our pride. The solution to the other is calling for help from someone else, someone who actually can help.

When spending time with God comes from a place of avoiding guilt, we are only creating a better persona for ourselves. We are lifting ourselves up by the bootstraps and saying, “I got this. I will not be pegged as a quiet-time-avoiding Christian. I will read my Bible because it will make me better and, somehow, more valuable.”

In his article “The Tyranny of Quiet Time,” Tim Challies invites us away from a guilt-ridden quiet time and toward something more genuine. “So do not allow quiet time to become performance. View it as a chance to grow in grace … Focus on the gospel as the message of grace that both saves and sustains. And allow quiet time to become a gift of worship you present to God, and a gift of grace you receive from Him.”

I have missed many daily quiet times in the past year, and I often forgot to pray and seek wise counsel. But the Bible never said that we live by our efforts in daily quiet time. Instead, it says we live by God’s daily grace.

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