One of the most difficult things about 2020 has, of course, been the separation from many of our loved ones for long periods of time. Many of us have experienced this: not being able to see parents we care for, even when in care homes, hospitals and the like; not being able to see our wider family, something we took for granted before; and not being allowed to just visit a friend and catch up over a coffee. It’s harder to cultivate relationships from behind a mask and from a ‘social distance’, though we try and do so creatively as we are able, especially using technology.
For many of us. It has been strange and perhaps even painful to have had Christmas without the presence of loved ones we would normally share that time with. The same goes for New Year. We are encouraged by the developments in vaccines, and we hope that in the coming months, we will be able to meet once again, unfettered by the necessary restrictions of today. When we are able to reconnect, I suspect our hugs will last that bit longer, the smiles on our faces will be that bit broader, and the conversations that bit more precious. We are humans beings, after all, made in God’s image, and made to give and receive love.
However, we are also made for relationship with our Creator, and Augustine was right when he said: ‘You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.’ As we long that next year will be one where we can connect more with our loved ones, let’s just pause and think about the steps we will take to connect more with our loving heavenly Father. This is even more important.
I was reading the following with Sarah the other day, in a devotional by James and Shirley Dobson:
“Jesus longs for fellowship with us. And when we kneel before him and spend even a few minutes in prayer, we bring joy to Him. The apostle Paul says that Jesus wants to hear your voice continually.
1 Thessalonians 5: 17-18: ‘Pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.’ But, when we let ourselves get caught up in the busyness of life and put off time for prayer, we become less sensitive to is voice and His leading in our lives. Relationships, whether human or divine, must be cultivated and maintained if they are to be vibrant and meaningful. Let’s make sure that we spend time every day with our loving Master.”
We all need to hear this annual challenge to cultivate our relationship with God through disciplined daily Bible reading and prayer. There are many helpful Bible reading plans: find one that works for you. Spend time with our heavenly Father during those days when you feel like it, and the days you don’t, then redouble your efforts to do it anyway! It truly is amazing how God blesses us even when we get our Bibles out reluctantly, wondering what the point is. We’re investing in our relationship with God, which is something we will never, ever regret.
I don’t need to reinvent the Bible-reading-plan-wheel, so I will end this brief thought with a few website links you might want to browse. But one thing I do know from experience is that being disciplined in our Bible reading and prayer (hopefully a time we will grow to relish) is the most rewarding of experiences. Stopping and starting and stopping and starting over 2021 is not the best plan. Choose a time each day and try to stick to it. I’ve found it so tough trying to get into a rhythm of physical fitness as each time I get up a head of steam, covid thwarts my plans, and the gym doors close for another few months. It’s a necessary frustration. I really am keen to maintain the discipline of physical exercise.
But I’m keener still to maintain the discipline of spending time with God, giving thanks to him in all circumstances, pouring out my heart to him, asking him for help, and guarding this time as the most precious time of the day. We shall see how it goes.