What to do when the Christian life feels like a chore.
A couple weeks ago we looked Acts 3:11-26 and saw a religious crowd in the temple going through the motions, ready to chase after the latest new thing. And we were challenged by the testimony of Phan Thi Kim Phuc who overcame the surgeries, scars and bitterness over the bombing of her village and through faith in Christ came to the place where she could say,
"[Jesus] helped me learn to forgive my enemies, and I finally had some peace in my heart. Now when I look at my scars or suffer pain, I'm thankful the Lord put his mark on my body to remind me that he is with me all the time."
Her faith, unlike the crowd in the temple, was anything but dry routine.
That week someone from the congregation wrote the following:
Diving deeper into the sermon, I think what you said really stuck with me. I feel like in a nutshell that's my Christian life. You know I try to do what I'm supposed to do. Read my Bible, pray, go to church, help the poor, all the physical aspects. But as you said there is still something missing, a refresh. Sadly, I can't even say I have a desire or a thirst. I just do it because I love God and know everything he says and orders us to do is out of his love and perfection. Its like brushing my teeth, I don't have a desire to do it. But I know that it's Good for me, and my dentist has the best interest for my teeth.
I wonder whether many of you identify with these words. I did. Let me share with you some of what I wrote in case it’s a help to you when you find yourself going through the motions in your relationship with God:
You mentioned how you're doing all the right things, spiritually, but rather than doing them out of desire you're doing them out of a belief that it's right and good and in your best interest. I find most aspects of the Christian life make more sense when I compare them to other relationships I have.
For example, if I faithfully provided for my wife, took her out on dates regularly, helped around the house, and tried to do everything she wanted, but told her that it all felt like a chore, she'd be pretty disappointed. She wouldn't accuse me of being a hypocrite. Nor would she be ungrateful for what I was doing. But she would remind me that what she thought was at the heart of our marriage was the love that she felt for me and I for her. She would say, “I love that you do all those things, but I'd love even more if you did them out of love for me.” I think our relationship with God is like that.
Compare the approach that sees marriage and the Christian life as a chore to Jacob’s words in Genesis 29:20: So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.
That’s the motivation that fuels a healthy relationship whether with God or with people.
Where does that leave us in approaching a ‘routine’ Christian life? If we don’t feel the desire for anything more, the advice is the same that we’d give to the husband who was going through the motions, “What you’re doing is great, but your relationship could be so much more if your heart was in it.”
I’ve done three things when I’ve felt like I’m going through the motions in my Christian life (and I’ve often caught myself feeling like that):
- Confess my lack of desire for God as sin. (That doesn’t nullify the value or meaning of all the good things that I’m doing but just recognizes that my heart matters too.)
- Remind myself of the blessings that God wants to pour out in my life – He knows that my relationship with Him could be so much more than it is.
- Talk to God more personally in prayer. Express your love for Him. Express your gratefulness to Him. Tell Him where you’re hurting or struggling or doubting. When we take our relationship with God to a more personal level, the feelings often return and the ‘motions’ can become more meaningful.
May God send us “times of refreshing” individually and as a congregation as we seek His face.
In awe of Him,