I've always loved to read; it's my safe place. Somewhere I can just escape to, through the pages of a book. It is the very reason I study literature. But, even though I get to read all the time whilst studying, and I really love what I do, I miss simply reading for pleasure. I miss getting to pick up a new book, a book I have chosen to read, and going wherever my mood takes me. I've received a lot of encouragement recently to take more time out; to try not to stress about work too much, and to spend time for myself. So, in my time off, I've been taking time to read more, for pleasure. I was also challenged recently by a good friend who had been praying for me, especially about my Uni work, to spend more time with God. Even more time than I think I can spend, just reading and praying and being with God. I really felt this challenge. All last term I struggled to make it to small group due to my University timetable. I struggled to make it to church due to my lack of motivation. And I struggled to consistently spend time with God because I had so much work to do. Recently, my head has been a bit of a mess. There are a few reasons for this. The stress I put myself under with regards to Uni work does not help. But my lack of time with God is the greatest issue. I am going to be scarily honest here and admit that I have not actually sat down and read my Bible in quite a while. Nor have I even read any Christian books. And this scares me. The Bible should be the one book I read consistently and continually. It is the first book I should turn to when I need to rest. The first book I should turn to when I am struggling. And the first book I should turn to when I sit down to begin my work. But not only is it the first book I should turn to, it is also the last book. When the day is over; when my struggles have been overcome; when that essay has finally been submitted only ten minutes before the deadline. Then, also, I should turn to the Bible and thank God for the blessings He has poured out on my life; for fighting my battles for me; for helping me get that essay done and submitted in time.
I once heard someone say, during a preach, that he spent an hour everyday with God, except when he was busy. Then he spent two hours with God. My friend was right when she challenged me to spend more time than I think I can with God, especially when I am so busy with work. Because it is in the times when we are busy, or struggling, or stressed, or just consumed by work that we need God most. Sure, He is our rest and we should make sure to rest in Him often. But He is also our strength and so we need to rely on Him when we are tired and stressed and working too hard.
I've never been very good at relying on other people. Years of hurt and abuse and betrayal taught me not to trust anyone and I'm very independent and self-reliant, so I still find it extremely difficult to trust or rely on anyone, including God. I know that I need to learn to rely on God more and that to do that I need to read the Bible and pray more. Spending time with God - finding strength in Him, resting in Him - isn't just about reading the Bible, it's praying; being in conversation with God. My friend's challenge to me to spend more time with God wasn't just about reading my Bible more, though of course that's part of it, but it was about praying more and learning to rely on God, especially in hard times.
Learning to rely on God means learning to love God. I am not exactly a faithful person. I don't so much 'believe in' God as simply cannot deny His existence. For me, I know that God exists, I've always known that He exists, I can't even try to deny this. But that doesn't mean that I've always loved Him. In fact, I've always struggled to love Him and for a long time I was very angry with Him. Still am sometimes. It has taken a long time for me to even begin to learn to rely on God. I'm not there yet. And I'm not quite there yet when it comes to loving Him either. But I am getting there. Slowly. I don't think He blames me though, I have a lot of issues to work on here.
It is because God loves us that we are able to love Him and through loving Him, we can learn to love others and are instructed to do so. Sometimes I feel like I'm not a very loving person. I try. But I really struggle to even be around people sometimes, let alone to love them. It's something I constantly battle with. Not being able to trust people makes loving them rather difficult. It is the people I have loved who have hurt me most. Perhaps I have not loved very wisely in the past and so have hardened my heart. The Bible tells us to guard our hearts and perhaps I have guarded mine a little too fiercely, but I think I am beginning to feel again. It's terrifying. And I've still got a long way to go. But I am learning to spend time with God; to trust in Him and rely on Him, and to love Him.
I had initially finished the post there but I wanted to share one extra thing:
My biggest fear in posting this is that people are going to think that I'm going through a period of doubt or that I'm in a really bad place either spiritually or mentally But I'm not. I'm just being honest. And, honestly, I've been in much worse places than this. And I got out of them. My head actually feels clearer than it has done in a long time. I will be fine. I always am. And right now, that's good enough for me.