Encouragement for the Weary, Working Believer
For the past few years, I observed the evils of subtle comparison impact the devotional lives of many Christians. Often, ineffective time management combined with a demanding work environment can lead to a lack of devotional time with the Lord and discouragement. Moreover, for some, a feeling of inferiority to those in ministry or ministry-related jobs may develop and lead to regret, even resentment regarding their present vocations.
As a stay-at-home mom of a rambunctious toddler with another one on the way, this is often a struggle for me. As a student, I was able to spend more time in study and prayer. However, with full-time employment and now, being a mom, I have found it extremely frustrating that my focused time with the Lord is very limited. Even finding time to write this article was a test in endurance and a battle against exhaustion.
Maybe you are parent like me, or a full-time caretaker for one or more family members. Maybe you work odd hours, have a demanding work schedule, educational program or a lengthy commute. Maybe you have various combinations of the factors I have listed above. Maybe there are more reasons than the ones I have listed. Whatever the combination, the one thing these factors have in common is an impact on our time that leaves many of us exhausted.
Not all of us can or need to change these factors. I believe the places where God has chosen for us, whether by circumstance or our choosing, should not result in ongoing condemnation internally or outwardly. As Paul says in 1 Cor. 7:17, “Let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned, and to which God has called him.” The most important thing is keeping God’s commandments.
My reasons above and encouragements to follow should not be used as scapegoats for a lack of time management or allocating a disproportionate amount of time to entertainment, hobbies, idling and things of this sort. I only wish to acknowledge some of the factors that secretly burden a great deal of the working Christians I know and love. My hope is the words that follow would aid in building stronger, focused and more fruitful devotional lives for the weary, working believers that are driven by knowing and being known by God.
Sometimes we fall into the performance trap in prayer. Maybe we ask ourselves if we pray enough, long enough, intense enough or sound holy/reverent/eloquent enough. I am sure there are many other questions but these seem to be the most common from my own life and discussions with others.
We must remember that “even before a word is on [our] tongue,” the Lord knows it all (Psalm 139:4). For those of us who feel our words have to be expertly curated before the Lord and others, the Lord already knows exactly how the pleas, the questions, the requests, the thanksgiving sound in your heart and mind previous to the words being formed. He alone sees into your soul (1 Samuel 16:7b), so pray with this in mind. Authentic prayer will lead to more purposeful, sincere and fruitful prayer times, especially when time is limited.
In our world of quantifying outcomes, where bigger is better and more equals success, we are tempted to measure our devotional times in the same way. Instead of measuring our devotional lives by how much we have done, we should be measuring the quality by the fruit we bear. Remember that the lessons learned in times of prayer and study should prompt our lives to bear lasting fruit that is cultivated by the power of God’s Spirit, humble submission and consistent application of God’s Word.
Replace your mental or physical checklist of how much you have read with how much you are learning. Meditate on what the Lord is teaching you daily. Ask yourself:
1. What is this scripture teaching me about God and generally?
2. How is this scripture encouraging and/or convicting me?
Pray that the Lord would open your eyes to these lessons through experience or observation. Ask that he would provide you with his wisdom and strength for action (or restraint) in a way that exalts him.
Paul exhorts the slaves in Colossians, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (Col. 3:23-24). We too are to work in a way that consistently evidences the hope of the risen Lord in our lives. Be committed to the Lord first, and then shine the light of Christ through your work. Work wisely and integrally with excellence. Work compassionately, patiently and effectively. Work boldly with humility, using your talents, ideas, skills, knowledge etc. as assets for your organization and (or) household, and ultimately to make God’s name great. Ministry-related or not, your work is service to the Lord first, so rejoice in his goodness to use this for his glory.
Be encouraged, my tired friends, and remember this: “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.” (Ps. 103:13-14). He is not the one who grows tired and weary, we are. He remembers that we are dust. So, work wholeheartedly each day with the reminder that your work is service to him first. Remember that honoring him is not limited to our prayer and study times, but is at the center of a life of worship. Even though your time is limited and you may be exhausted, make the best use of your time by pursuing him intentionally, with humility and sincerity, knowing that he rewards those who diligently seek him (Heb. 11:6).