As swimsuit season is in full force, the gym becomes packed with people like me who haven’t seen a treadmill since 2012. Of course, as summer wears on, their blotchy, winded faces disappear one by one as they trickle out twice as quickly as they flooded in. This tidal flow of gym-goers reminds me of daily devotionals. During the school semester, when time was scarce and energy rare, I let myself slack on holding a quiet time. For me, it seemed like an all or nothing effort: either I was in the word every day pouring over scripture for hours or I called it a “day off.” I regarded the gym with this same black-and-white mentality, where it was either a two-hour, muscle-draining power session or a day of Oreo-munching on the couch.
There was only one problem. A rigid perspective like this will never align with the unpredictable nature of daily life. Additionally, when we approach our spiritual life like a chore, another check on the to-do list, we set ourselves up for the inevitable burnout. In Romans 7:22, Paul writes that “For in my inner being I delight in God’s law.” Chores are not typically delightful, so why should it be surprising when we do not derive joy reading God’s word when we equate it with doing the dishes? If our spiritual state links with motivation in this way, perhaps we should look at what makes a strong physique.
There are many similarities between a good spiritual and physical physique: both require frequent exercise, stimulating plans, and continuous effort. If we really want to be in the word (or the gym) daily, we cannot set unrealistic expectations for ourselves. We may have only 10 minutes to spare one day, and that’s okay. We may have an hour to give another day, and that’s okay. We may skip one or two days altogether, and that’s okay.
1 Chronicles 16:11 says, “Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually.” If we are going to seek Him continually and delight in His word, we must pace ourselves like an athlete. A brief spiritual workout is better than no workout at all, and daily devotionals provide the long-term strength a weekly or monthly binge spiritual session cannot. I’m not saying I have it figured out or that I’m great at consistently holding a quiet time, because I’m not. I’m saying that to get in better shape, we need to ditch the idea of being a spiritual gym rat.