You Can Rest Easy

When Illness Hijacks Your Devotional Life

When I think of a daily devotional time, I picture concentrated efforts toward Bible study and prayer. And that’s what I committed myself to for many years.  These times drew me near to God and made me aware of his presence and power in my life. After illness, however, my ability to have a lengthy and concentrated devotional time diminished due to declining energy, mental focus, and ability to handle stress—even the slight stress which comes with basic daily duties.

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This lack of extended spiritual intake made me feel far from God and like he wasn’t as active in my life as before. I wrestled with feelings that he wasn’t  pleased with me anymore and that I was a disappointment to him. I certainly felt disappointed with myself. To be honest, I still struggle with these feelings, but I am fighting to renew my thinking about what nearness to God looks like and what pleases him, especially for someone dealing with chronic health issues.

It is very encouraging to know that other people with chronic illness and pain live out Christian devotional lives that look “a bit different” than those who are healthy. Could it be that God extends special spiritual grace and power to those who are unable to intensely focus for long periods of time?

Something I read in Michael and Margaret Robble’s book, Always Sick, Always Loved encouraged me in this.

“Margaret’s Bible intake looks a bit different. With all her assorted health issues, it is very difficult for her to consistently read her Bible. So…each morning I read out loud to her….Though some days it is hard for her to concentrate through her waves of pain and fatigue, the Lord has faithfully given her sufficient spiritual food to persevere. Even if she can only focus on a single verse or part of a verse, God has kept her faith and trust in him consistently strong” (Always Sick, Always Loved, pp.176-177).

And consider this fantastic quote that Michael Robble shares by Margaret Clarkson:

“Suffering is seen as one of God’s means of enlarging the soul’s capacity for Himself, and sufferers are enjoined to seek God’s enabling that they may lose none of the present or future fullness that God would have them experience as a result…There is only one way in which a sufferer may come to realize the eternal good which is God’s purpose for him in pain, and that is by a close study of the Word of God. Sufferers often find it difficult, even impossible, to maintain a systematic pattern of Bible study; but God in His mercy has not forgotten such needy ones. Scripture abounds with what I like to call God’s fragments—a host of all-encompassing minutiae which, though fragmentary and seemingly unimportant in themselves, are nonetheless capable of nourishing and sustaining the seeking soul.” (p.177, Margaret Clarkson, Grace Grows Best in Winter, pp.9-10).

Yes, yes, yes! I have experienced God’s comfort many times through a single line or phrase from the Bible or a song. I sometimes carry a few words  in my pocket on a sticky note to feed my soul during the day.

God is pleased with the heart that longs for and draws near to him through Christ. Devotional times modified by illness and pain allow us to experience the Gospel of grace in an expanded way—to recognize that God is not pleased with us because of what we can do for him, but by our faith in what he has done for us through the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. There is a spiritual advantage to drawing near to God regularly throughout the day, prompted by pain, discomfort, and desperation. It reminds us of our need for God and prompts us to connect with him and cast our cares on his eternal shoulders.

For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust.” Psalm 103:14, NLT

So when you are tempted to despair over your fragmented spiritual life due to chronic illness and pain, take courage!  God understands and looks at your heart, not how many chapters you read or prayer lists you completed.  Give yourself the freedom for your time with God to look different from those who are pain-free. I’m convinced that God often does not expect as much from us as we expect from ourselves. He knows our frailties—he knows we are but dust. So take a deep breath, catch truth where you can, and rest easy.

Question: Have you discovered any ways of nourishing yourself spiritually when you’re not able to have the ideal devotional life? Please share with us in the comments section below!

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4 thoughts on “You Can Rest Easy

  1. This is so true Michael! For years I fretted because I wasn’t able to have the kind of quiet times I thought was evidence of being in an ongoing relationship with God or even complete Bible studies. Can’t tell you how discouraged I would feel when I heard the comment “if you’re not in regular bible study, your relationship is not what it should be and you need to re-evaluate. I start a Bible reading plan every year and finally went through a period where I realized I was never going to keep up and so I just needed to keep my place and read when I could. Some days, I can only meditate on memorized scripture or allow my mind to sing words of His truth. I had a lightbulb moment from God that when the phrase as above is stated I can rest in knowing that as long as I’m seeking him with my whole heart, it just doesn’t apply to me. It’s been liberating!

    • Julie, thanks so much for sharing your similar experience! It’s always good to hear that someone else can relate. Yes, I have often heard that same comment “if you’re not in regular bible study, your relationship is not what it should be and you need to re-evaluate.” That’s always hard for me to hear, but I’m getting better at hearing it and not heaping condemnation on myself. Christy often reminds me that I cling to God and that’s what matters. So good to hear from you!

  2. Yes, Michael, I too have been blessed by single verses that the Lord’s Spirit seemingly “lights up” as I read thru a passage of scripture. These little diamonds of His truth almost appear as tho they have been “back lit” on the page. When that happens I will seriously consider adding them to my “wish list” as I have come to call it. My list of verses that I want to commit to memory.
    All love and blessing in Christ, to you and your family my brother,
    Charles

    • Yes, Charles…A single phrase can “light up” with poignant encouragement. Isn’t it wonderful when that happens?! These words lit up for me last week: “And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power” (1 Cor 6:14). “Also raise us up by his power”…I love that. Resurrection to new life and new bodies is a happy hope. I have experienced the same blessing from Scripture memory, although memorization is more difficult now than before illness. Thank you for your encouragement, Charles!
      Love from the Hardys,
      Michael