I’d finally hit that point – I was stressed. Too stressed. And I was ready to unload all of it onto my husband. While walking our dog around our neighborhood I let it all spill out – I was feeling overwhelmed with work, graduate school homework, and a family issue. I felt distracted from things I really enjoyed doing. I found myself losing my patience easily and getting unnecessarily annoyed at the people around me.
We’ve all been there, right? To the point where you feel like your mind never shuts off and your thoughts are actually just one, long, never ending, incoherent thought? That’s where I was, and it was exhausting. I was pouring so much out into my obligations, stretching myself so thin, but wasn’t refilling, so that, consequently, I was always pouring from an already-empty vessel.
That afternoon, after a lot venting and even some tears, I landed on exactly what I needed to unwind: a quiet dinner out with my husband. I immediately turned to Google and then called a restaurant to make reservations. Then I thought that a weekend away from everything would be even better, and I spent the next thirty minutes searching for an Airbnb in the perfect location. Then I – finally – put my phone down and turned on Netflix for an hour to distract myself and unwind.
Do you see the issue here? I didn’t at first.
And then I felt this question land so heavily on my heart that it felt like a physical weight on my chest: “Why are you searching for answers in earthly distractions instead of turning to Me?”
This conviction from the Holy Spirit triggered an intense season of self-reflection on how I prioritize my time.
I began to realize that, even on my busiest days, I managed to squeeze in at least 45 minutes of Netflix. I rarely missed an Instagram update, making sure to do a quick scroll through my feed before going to bed. I knew every new trend on Tik Tok because it was the first app I went on in the morning.
What did I often cut short, though? Praying. Reading my Bible. Spending time with God.
And, like many of the quiet little sins hiding in the dark corners of our lives, I justified it. I sugar-coated my behavior with thoughts like “I got a lot of work done today, there’s nothing wrong with a quick binge session,” or “it’s too late to start a devotional tonight, I’ll start it tomorrow when I have more time.”
In reality, though, I was self-medicating with earthly things, like vacations, social media, or episodes of The Office, expecting them to give me a restfulness and peace that only comes from God. And guess what? It wasn’t working. I wasn’t at peace. What I thought would fill and refresh me, was actually depleting me more.
My soul craved more and, for a long time, I didn’t even realize it. I was blaming my mental exhaustion on being overworked, treating that exhaustion with superficial things that offered false peace, and wondering why I was still exhausted.
Psalms 107:9 says that God satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things (NIV). I realized I needed to prioritize more time with God and less time with my “God-substitutes.” I didn’t even realize that I was giving God so little of my time, some days rushing through my prayers and skipping my Bible reading, even though I’d hit “Continue Watching” on Netflix twice already.
God doesn’t want our leftovers, the little crumbs that are left on the plates of our day, after we’ve done everything else we’ve wanted to do, only willing to give what we have left and don’t really need for anything else.
In 1 Chronicles 21, David sins against God. Instead of trusting in God’s provision, he turns to his own resources. The second half of this chapter was the lightbulb moment for me, though:⠀
As David is asking for God’s forgiveness, he decides to give God an offering. Someone offers David the materials needed for him to offer to God, at no cost to David. However, David responds with “No, I insist on paying the full price. I will not take for the Lord what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.” (1 Corinthians 21:24 NIV).
Ouch. I felt that one.
When I offer God my time, am I giving him an offering that cost me nothing? Am I giving him the last few minutes that I’m awake, rushing through my reading and prayers so that I can go to sleep? Do I scroll through Instagram for fifteen minutes before finally putting my phone down and praying for five?
Please hear me: I am not saying to go cancel your Netflix subscription or back out of your family vacation. What I am saying, though, is to make quality time with God a priority FIRST, and then squeeze in those extras, not the other way around.
God deserves a meaningful offering of your time, and, believe me, you will feel more refreshed and at peace in the other areas of your life when you flip your priorities and put God before other earthly distractions.