I have officially quit reading devotionals! I think they are great resources, I think they’ve helped a lot of people (myself included) make sense of things in life, and I believe for the most part that those that write them are called to do so, to share their message. So why in the world would I give up on them? For a number of reasons actually, but mainly, I found they were hindering my spiritual growth.
Please let me explain.
1. I was getting frustrated that I could only go as deep as Sara Young did. Or Beth Moore. Or whoever wrote the Daily Bread that day. My growth stopped where theirs stopped. I was framing my mind to think like them, to see the world and God how they did. My daily dose of “hang in there” was coming from Max Lucado, not from Jesus himself. Devotionals became where I turned each day to hear from God instead of the Bible, and so I wasn’t hearing from Him. I was going there for spiritual guidance and comfort, not directly to God.
2. I was using it to cross “God Time” off my list. I don’t hate devotionals or discourage their use, but for me personally since I was essentially reading them instead of the Bible, they were causing me to become weak in my faith and never sparked a greater thirst for Christ.
3. It made me a lazy Christian. So much so that I didn’t even realize it until I stopped reading them. I was reading these without intention, getting that good feeling for a moment that I had done the “right thing”, patting myself on the back for my dedication, then forgetting what it was about almost immediately after. Once I realized I was doing this, I knew something had to change.
4. Certain verses really stick out to us based on where we are at in our journey and what our circumstances are at the moment. That’s why the daily verses chosen for me that day in a devotional almost never “did the trick” for me. I realized this very quickly in my “no devotional” experiment. Verses that weren’t your typical ones picked for devotionals were suddenly hitting me very hard, convicting and refining me, and helping me where I was at. I’m not someone who hears a verse and can just take it to heart. “God says don’t fear? Uh, ok, I won’t!” Yeah, sorry, my brain just doesn’t work like that.
5. I find them often to be quite cheesy. Ah, sorry, don’t get mad! I just am not someone who is comforted by platitudes and nice sayings. Two truths: God is good and life is tough. No I don’t need babied through it, I need truth, even if it’s hard to swallow or understand. I found devotionals always trying to wrap things up nicely, but that just wasn’t my life anymore since cancer. And I could not relate.
6. Devotionals don’t always tackle the “tough stuff”. The Bible does.
I knew I needed to try something else. So I did…
I am now reading the Bible, regularly, in succession. Book by book. (New Testament and Psalms, I’m reading through the OT with my husband, so I’m not doing that on my own). And I’m reading with intention. This is the biggest and most important part, in my opinion. Every day I read to get something out of it, to feel the nudging of the Spirit, to hear directly what Jesus wants to say to me -with no middle man. Just connecting every day with my savior. It’s been so beneficial in my spiritual journey and in how I relate to and see others, that’s why I felt compelled to share this.
I’ve found that my time with the Lord has become so high quality. The closeness is tangible at times. I feel His leading and direction so much more now and I now yearn for my time with Him. Full disclosure here, I used to just make myself read devotionals and the little accompanying verses. I had to schedule it in, and a lot of times I’d let other things trump that time because, well, I didn’t really want to do it anyway, I just felt like I should. But reading the Bible itself has changed that. I yearn for my time with God now, can’t wait to hear what He will have to say to me. It’s hard to even explain the change that has taken place within me, but I feel now like I’m hearing what God wants me to hear each day, not what someone else needed to hear that day and not what someone else felt they needed to share that day.
My favorite outcome of this little boycott, is that I feel like I am gaining so much more of a bigger picture about God, who He is, how His heart is. I never gained any greater understanding of the Bible by just reading a verse out of Galatians one day, Ezekiel the next, and Psalms the next and the accompanying anecdotes for the day. I knew Jesus and had a personal relationship with Him, but never really got a big picture of everything as a whole. Now that I’m reading this way, I feel that I’m making connections I never did before, I’m gaining so much more understanding and reverence for God, and reading through John over and over has given me such a sense of Jesus’s heart.
It’s hard to explain, and I sure hope I’m not coming across “preachy” or like I have it all figured out. Because that would be very incorrect. But I can honestly say, without hesitation, that this has changed my life. It seems so obvious right? Duh, read your Bible. But I had to get the other people out of my head first before I could fully let Jesus in and let Him have control. I’ve been doing this for a while now and have wanted to share this, but never felt like it was the right time until now. I hope this makes sense, maybe others can read devotions and read the Bible and not have any issues like I had. In fact, I’m sure that happens a whole lot.
Again, devotionals are not bad or wrong. In fact, I love when someone reads one and thinks I could be helped or encouraged by it and shares it with me. I’m not anti-devotional, I just feel that I’m better off not relying on them, that’s all.
In this day and age where everything competes for our time and attention, if you only find a few minutes a day to spare to intentional time with God, may I humbly recommend trying this approach? If you feel how I felt before, I urge you to give it a try. I feel so much more open an available to His using now, hard to believe this is what made the difference.
One small change that changed my life.