But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it. James 1:22-25
I’m full of the best intentions. I have so many things I want to be good at, get better at or completely change in myself and in my life, whether it is simply a new hobby (Seriously, I should be able to sew a button on a shirt) or my need and desire to spend more time in God’s Word and in prayer, or even a deep character flaw that keeps revealing itself. We all encounter things that tug on us, whisper at us, try to draw us in the direction of God’s will for our lives.
The problem is, I love the idea of change, but I don’t love the work of change. I want to be full of wisdom and God’s Word, but I don’t want to turn off my favorite TV show and study His word or spend some time in prayer. I love the thought of finding time to do Bible studies with my kids over breakfast, so I am demonstrating good habits and priorities, but my pillow seems to call louder than my wrangling my kids in the morning while I impatiently wait for that coffee to brew. I like the idea of praying with my kids when their behavior is making me want to send them to bed at 5:00 pm just so I can have a bit of peace, but submitting to God when I’m so frustrated seems like a lot more effort than showing my frustration to my kids.
If you can relate, you might feel a bit overwhelmed right now. I can make a list of things I should be doing, doing better or completely changing…a very long list. In fact, this list seems so overwhelming, sometimes, I set it aside. Why? Because that is a lot of work and not that freeing. I have my hands full. I already feel overwhelmed most days. The idea of this “list” makes me push it to back of my mind of the things I will do eventually when life is less crazy. I know what things I “should” do and I know what His Word says, but actually putting them into action is daunting.
Deep breath. Adjust your focus, or more specifically, what you are focusing on. “25 But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.” God’s goal in this is your freedom. He isn’t looking to overwhelm you or for you to carry guilt for all the things you aren’t doing. He wants to free you and bless you. That suddenly doesn’t sound so bad. Obedience brings freedom and refreshing because His ways are the best ways to do life.
One of my biggest desires and something that has been whispered into my heart repeatedly is setting aside more time for study and prayer. Most of you know, I’ve had a chronically sick baby. When she was born, it was reflux and colic. Once that ended she got her first ear infection, and then another and another and so on until about 8 ear infections later we were ready to swear off sanity and sleep for good. Doctors and nurses know us by name at the pediatrician’s office. I can tell you most of the official names of inner parts of the ear and most of the medications used to treat infections. Each ear infection has meant a baby I cannot set down, sleep that was interrupted frequently or disappeared altogether while I rocked a feverish, hurting baby for most, if not all, of the night. Evenings with homework and cooking while Myra walked around crying and pleading took all I had to get through and by the time my poor husband walked in the door after a long day at work, I practically threw the baby into his arms and went to find something to help me decompress while trying to hold onto what patience I had for my other two kids. I wanted something easy that required nothing of me. I wanted to stare at a wall, forget how tired I was, have a moment of “me” time. There were a few times during the worst infections, I considered hopping in the car and driving for a very long time and just sitting there in silence for a few hours before heading home. The last thing I felt like doing was grabbing my Bible and disappearing into my bedroom for some reading and praying.
The problem with my approach is, in the end, I never get full, I never find rest, I never get relief. I just survive and start over again the next day. I would pray as I rocked her and as I cooked and as I drove and in between whatever I had going on, but it was always these desperate pleas or requests mixed with moments of thankfulness, which is not bad, but I wasn’t having a devoted time of connecting with God long enough to find his strength or guidance. I wasn’t having regular chunks of time to soak up help, reassurance and promises from His Word. These are the things that refresh, but before the refreshing comes it feels like another thing to add on to my “to do” list.
Life will keep happening. The lists of things to do will not shrink. No additional hours are going to be added to our days. I don’t feel “free” to make a change, but God’s Word says he provides freedom when we put things in order and do what His Word says. I would feel a lot less overwhelmed if I took the time to allow Him to refresh me. I probably wouldn’t feel like I had nothing left to give at the end of the day if I started the day seeking the only one who can truly bring rest, strength and guidance.
What things is He whispering for you to do? You don’t need to tackle all of it at once. Take one item from your list and ask Him what steps you should take to get there. As you do, you will sense the freedom and refreshing waiting for you. Put His Word into action one step at a time until you look back and realize you are now reaping the benefits of obedience.