We often hear how important it is to develop spiritual disciplines. These include fasting, Bible study, prayer, and many more. We are told that the importance of these disciplines is develop ourselves in Christlikeness; so we can be the people God created us to be. Yet, we’re human and therefore, imperfect. What does this mean for our spiritual disciplines? It means that we will mess up. We may set out to prayer, every morning, at 5am (before anyone else in the house is up), for 15 minutes. We are able to accomplish this task for awhile, but one day you wake up and its 7am. Oh No! You messed up but what do you do now? Below are some ideas that I have for you to remember when this happens.
Do it anyway
Yea, this is the low hanging fruit. Just because you aren’t able to practice your discipline at the time you set up to do it, is not an excuse to practice. Continuing to practice your disciplines, even if you cannot do it exactly as you have determined, still give the benefit of practice. Just because you start a fast later than anticipated does not make a fast null. You are still putting yourself through the struggle of discipline. Today simply looks different from the other days of this practice. That’s okay. This particular thought reminds me of runners. Many runners set out to run a particular route, or milage. Many of them have disciplined themselves to start their practice runs at a specific time. However, if they wake up late, the kids are distracting, or something else gets in the way (other than sickness), they will still lace up their shoes and head out the door as soon as possible. Our spiritual disciplines are like this. Just because something gets in the way of your discipline doesn’t mean you cannot do it today. Simply take care of what is important, then get to practice.
Reconsider the difficulty
Spiritual disciplines are certainly supposed to be difficult. The goal is to challenge yourself so you can grow in Christlikeness. If you do not challenge yourself, you cannot improve. However, some practices can certainly be too difficult. If you have never had the practice of meditation, it would be ridiculous for you to start meditating for half an hour, three times a day. From the beginning, you will never be able to keep that practice going. Instead, it is wiser for you to start with a smaller, more attainable goal, then challenge yourself to go deeper. Maybe start with meditating for 5 minutes a day. Once you are able to accomplish that goal, then consider adding more time to your practice. It’s okay to admit that a practice is too difficult for you right now, and reassess it. It is far more important for you to focus on your spiritual health, than to focus of being a spiritual “master.”
Think about why you are doing it
The ultimate goal of any spiritual discipline is for it to make you more like Christ. Too often we can become stressed out about making our practice happen. When this happens, I want to ask why? Has the practice become the goal? Are you seeking to become someone who fasts during the day, or are you seeking to be someone who knows that “man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:3, NASB)? Fight becoming a person who has a particular practice. If you feel that missing your practice is making you a failure, it is time to ask yourself what your real intention of performing the discipline truly is.
Of course these are simply my ideas. There is absolutely no reason to believe this is an exhaustive list. The spiritual disciplines are to be practices that give us life by connecting us deeper to God through Jesus Christ. If your practice is harming your mental health, or causing you to stress out about your faith, it is time to consider what is going on under the surface of your practice. This is certainly a reminder I need for myself. Too often I get upset that I’m not praying “enough,” or fasting “enough,” or anything “enough.” The truth is that I am seeking to be more like Christ. It is not an all of a sudden journey, but one that will take the rest of my life.
Do you have any more ideas for how to make sure you don’t fall away from your spiritual practice, while recognizing a failed practice? Let me know in the comments below.