Why Is It So Hard To Spend Time With God?
It’s been a staple of the Christian life to daily read the Bible and pray in some form or fashion. Pastor Clyde Cranford makes this clear:
“For centuries, those who have truly sought to know God intimately have
found it imperative to set aside some time each day to focus their attention
and affection on Him.”
Why We Don’t
We know this. Having a “quiet time” should be a part of our regular rhythm. And yet, I can be alarmingly spotty in my consistency. I love Jesus, I want to know him more, but I have often let my schedule dictate my ability or tendency to be with him despite knowing the great benefits it brings. Why is this?
I've spent a lot of time trying to understand and answer this question. It's not complicated, but "simple" doesn't mean "easy." The concept of moving weight by the method of squatting is simple - squat down and stand up, but doing that movement with 400lbs is by no means easy.
In the same way, spending time with God is difficult for us because of this simple reason: we don't want to. We don't desire to spend time with God (or at least don't desire it enough) so we don't. This means that the solution is that we need to desire it so that we do it. Simple. But as you probably know, that's not easy. So what do we do?
Longing For More
Peter teaches us that we should "long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up... if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good" (1 Peter 2:2-3). Fittingly, spiritual milk here most likely refers to the Word of God (1 Peter 1:23), but what does it mean to "have tasted that the Lord is good?" The phrase here is taken straight out of Psalm 34, and we can safely assume Peter isn’t using this phrase without considering its context. In fact, he’ll go on and reference the Psalm at more length (1 Peter 3:10-12). So what can we learn from it?
David, the author of Psalm 34, opens by exclaiming he "will bless the Lord at all times" (Psalm 34:1). Why? Because David had experienced God move in his life: "I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears... This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles" (Psalm 34:4,6). Tasting that the Lord is good is to experience Him, to know Him, to engage with Him, to seek Him. By doing these things you will "taste and see that the Lord is good!" (Psalm 34:8) You will come to understand that "those who seek the Lord lack no good thing" (Psalm 34:10).
So it seems that Peter is saying if we taste and see that the Lord is good, we will long for more, we will yearn for the spiritual milk. But not only that, we should develop greater desires, our appetites should strengthen. Look how the writer of Hebrews explains the natural progression:
"for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil." (Hebrews 5:13-14)
As you long for the spiritual milk, you will grow up (as Peter taught above). And as you grow up, your desires will enhance, meaning you will need to move on from milk to solid food. Now don't miss this.
There's a principle here. The principle of "Spiritual Appetites."
Spiritual Appetites: Not Hungry? Eat.
This principle, in essence, is this: the more you eat, the hungrier you get. Where with physical food we eat and become full, spiritual eating produces a greater hunger. We start at the basics, with milk, and as we consume it we begin to crave more, we want solid food and that desire drives us to consume more.
I’m not just making this up. This principle is threaded throughout Scripture.
Jesus taught that our spiritual nourishment heavily relied on the Word of God:
“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God." (Matthew 4:4)
Psalm 19:10 and Psalm 119:103 tell us that God's Word is sweeter than that of honey. Jeremiah praised God for His words so much so that he "ate them” and they ”became to me a joy and the delight of my heart…" (Jeremiah 15:16). Likewise, Job valued God's Word in a similar fashion, "I have not departed from the commandment of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my portion of food." (Job 23:12)
I hope you see that God's Word is designed to "taste" good to us and be "eaten.” But you cannot successfully pursue and seek God or taste and see the goodness of the Lord while you find your fill in other, worldly things. Notice how Jesus viewed another source of food as simple obedience to God:
"Jesus said to them, 'My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.'" (John 4:34)
The writer of Hebrews explained that those who consume solid food are those, "who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil" (Hebrews 5:14). These people are constantly trying to discover, "what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect" (Romans 12:2b). They are the ones setting their minds on the things of God, not on the things of man (Colossians 3:2).
Psalm 34 agrees. David wrote the key to tasting the goodness of the Lord was to fear him (Psalm 34:9). That those who "desire life" would need to keep their tongue from evil, their lips from speaking deceit. To "turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it." (Psalm 34:11-14).
Jesus promises that obedience, motivated by love, will result in more of experiencing Himself,
"Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” (John 14:21)
Those who obey and love God will taste and see His goodness, namely in the form of His Son, Jesus.
Waiting to Be Satisfied
Some people try seeking God half-heartedly, they read scripture, pray some prayers, but they don't turn from sin. They are those usually confused and frustrated with the Lord. If we are to taste the goodness of God, we must find our fill in Him alone with a whole, devoted heart (Deuteronomy 4:29). This may mean we feel hungry for a time; we may not be immediately filled. Spiritual blessings (those found in Christ) most always require delayed gratification. Sin is instant pleasure that comes and goes. It leaves bitterness in its wake. It doesn't leave us filled with joy, but regret (2 Corinthians 7:10). This is why Jesus, when speaking of believers, said,
“Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied." (Luke 6:21)
But to those who find their satisfaction in things other than God,
“Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry.” (Luke 6:25)
Waiting upon the Lord results in being satisfied. Filling ourselves now with easier, more convenient, and attractive options results in wanting. Long for the pure, spiritual milk. Consume solid foods. Try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord, what is good, and what is evil. Seek the Lord. Trust in Him alone and you who are hungry will be satisfied.
The more you eat, the hungrier you get. Passively waiting around to feel something for God isn't the answer. If you want to "long" for Him, start eating! Spending time with Him may begin feeling more like a chore than a joy, but eventually, if you do not give up (Galatians 6:9), you will know along with David:
"Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed." (Psalm 34:5)