With the recent advisory to practice social distancing, the cancellation of athletic seasons and the possibilities of mandatory quarantine looming, you may be struggling to find normalcy or hope in the current situation, faced with seemingly exponential time on your hands. Without discipline and structure, this time can easily be wasted and you could be missing out on opportunities to spend time with God and experience His transformative grace.
It's in times of struggle such as this that we are given an opportunity to spend more time in His Word, growing in our faith and lifting our worries up to Him. This is where spiritual disciplines — intentional practices to spend time with God and grow in your relationship with Him — come in.
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Jesus Himself instructs us to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind,” but what does it look like to do this in a time of crisis?
There are many ways you can act out that lesson, but to get you started, here are a few disciplines to consider incorporating into your routine to help you grow in your love of the Lord and engage your heart, soul and mind with Him:
Journaling is the discipline of reflection, a tool for slowing down and reflecting on how you see God showing up in the ordinary moments of your everyday life. It can also provide a way of processing your hopes, fears, dreams and emotions, especially in uncertain times. Providing a space where you can get real with God, journaling allows you to address what is going on at a heart level to see where you need Him the most, and the areas in which you have growth opportunities in your faith.
If you are not sure where to start, try journaling about the events that have unfolded in the past few weeks, how you are feeling about them and where you see God at work in your life. It doesn’t need to be a flawless manuscript or even grammatically correct; just let your thoughts flow onto paper in a way that is real, vulnerable and raw.
Time and again in the Bible we are given examples of God’s people waiting. Abraham and Sarah waited for a son to fulfil God’s promise to them, David waited years to become king of Israel after being anointed by Samuel, and Jesus waited in the desert for 40 days before beginning his ministry. In our fast-paced, instant-gratification culture, we often forget the importance of patiently waiting.
Waiting is the discipline of trusting God in the midst of uncertainty, when you have limited to no control. The COVID-19 outbreak is a reminder that in this life we don't have much control to begin with. As the novel coronavirus continues to spread, it is natural to be afraid and anxious, making this the perfect time to practice the discipline of waiting.
You can practice this by turning off all of the outside noise, praying and asking the Spirit to help you relinquish the fear, uncertainty and anxieties you are experiencing. Stay present with God in the moment, avoid imagining the worst-case scenarios, ask the Spirit to develop His fruit of patience and peace in you, and then...wait.
Lectio Divina, also known as devotional reading, is the process of reading the Bible with the intention of listening and reflecting on what the Lord is saying to you.
As an athlete it may be natural for you to approach studying God’s Word as something to conquer, as if you can master the text. On the contrary, devotional reading is reading the Word to be mastered by it.
Here are five steps to devotional reading:
- Pray—pray and release the chaos and noise occurring around you. Invite the Spirit to join you as you engage with God’s Word.
- Read—Lectio means “listen.” Slowly read the passage out loud and listen to the text. When a word or phrase stands out to you, linger over it. Don't overanalyze or justify it. Just listen and consider what the Lord may be saying to you in that moment.
- Meditate—read the passage out loud again. Meditate on the words that stand out to you and reflect on their significance.
- Respond—read the passage again prayerfully. As you talk with God about the passage, tell Him how you are feeling and how this passage is stirring in you. Consider replacing the pronouns in the passage with your name, or using the passage as a template for a personal prayer to God.
- Contemplate—take some time to let the passage sink in. Jot down what stood out to you from your devotional that you want to be reminded of later. Throughout the day return to the passage and mull over what the Lord said to you.
Memorization was once paramount to the spiritual development of the early church. However, in this digital age we simply don't need to memorize information to operate in daily life. Our memory muscles are weak, and because of this, we often avoid the discipline of Scripture memorization.
As you read your Bible, take note of the verses and passages that speak to your soul. Write them down and leave them where you will see them regularly. Memorization depends on repetition, so practice reciting them regularly until reciting them becomes easy and natural.
The more you engage in this discipline, the easier it becomes. Begin to pray and ask the Spirit to reveal to you the verses you memorized when you need them.
Prayer is simply time spent talking with God. He doesn't care so much what words you offer Him, rather the posture of your heart — God wants us to dialogue with Him about everything (Philippians 4:6-7). We can bring our worries, fears, requests, praises and thanksgiving to Him. In fact, He delights in communicating with His children! The more we communicate with our friends, family members or significant others, the more the relationships grow, and the same is true of our relationship with God.
Solitude is a discipline that addresses our addiction to being seen. God created us with the desire for connection with others and the desire to be known, but because of our fallen condition, we often look to the wrong things to meet this desire.
It can be easy during this time of isolation to turn to social media to fill our relational needs. Although social media can be a useful tool for connection, it can give us a false sense of authenticity. The filtered images of others and the mindless scrolling through Twitter do very little to root us in Christ or connect us with others in a meaningful way.
Solitude is the discipline of leaving people behind and spending time alone with the Lord. Setting aside 30 minutes a day for solitude creates space for you to practice other disciplines like journaling, lectio divina, Scripture memorization or prayer without the interruption of others.
Our God is a relational God. He is in a holy fellowship of three: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. As image bearers, we are designed to be in fellowship as well. Our souls need healthy relationships in order to grow. We are not created to be lone ranger Christians; we need community. But how is it possible to experience authentic Christian community while complying with social distancing?
Here are a few suggestions:
- FaceTime with a close friend and share how you are feeling and what the Lord is teaching you during this season, and pray for one another.
- Start a Bible study over Google Hangout or FaceTime with your teammates and friends. Consider using the AO1 Life app’s digital Bible study materials.
- Read articles from athletesinaction.org with others and start a group text to discuss what you are learning.
- Connect with another athlete from your campus and ask them to share their story. Use this time to get to know others in a deeper, more meaningful way.
You are in a unique and challenging season, but also a season of opportunity to grow in your relationship with God. While this isn’t a comprehensive list of spiritual disciplines, it may be a good place to start. Set aside some time each day to engage with a spiritual discipline and ask the Lord to draw you to Himself. Utilize the opportunity before you. It's in times like these that we need to place our trust in the Lord and rely on Him in every area of our lives.