Editor's Note: We are a non-religious magazine. However, we acknowledge that spirituality is an important part for some. Our Faith column is a place for anyone to discuss how faith positively affects their mental health and how to improve the conversation around mental health within faith communities.
All my life, I’ve heard people say that Christianity isn’t a religion, but a relationship. And like any intimate relationship, it requires time and effort. It requires spending time to nurture the relationship in order to strengthen it and make it more intimate. For Christians, this often means prayer, reading the Bible, worship, and quiet time with God, which can include any or all of the previous three.
Many of my Christian friends can attest to the importance of having daily quiet time. They say it helps them to grow in their relationship with God and they feel closer to Him because of it. In certain seasons of my life, I have experienced this growth of intimacy and the steadiness that daily time with God brings into my life.
However, I have never been successful at consistently setting aside daily quiet time with God.
I either get too caught up in my life and my things or I am wrestling with my mental health and I do not mentally or emotionally have the capacity to have quiet time. Usually it is a combination of both—struggling with mental illness and not having strength to do anything I don’t have to do.
I used to relentlessly beat myself up over this, telling myself things like, You’re not a real Christian because you don’t read your Bible every day, and, God loves you less because you aren’t a ‘good enough’ Christian.
These lies would circle around in my head until all I could hear were voices of failure and worthlessness and shame. These voices perpetuated my mental illness to the point where any sort of relationship with God seemed one where He was ignoring and punishing me.
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However, as I have matured in my faith and pushed forward in my recovery, I’ve realized how much these lies were driven partially by my mental illness and how having daily quiet time not only helps me to combat these lies with truth, but it makes my mental illnesses more manageable.
What do I mean by quiet time?
For me, quiet time doesn’t have to be sitting down to read a certain amount of my Bible or spend a specific amount of time in prayer. A lot of the time, my quiet time is in the moments I walk across campus to class; it’s in the time I spend in the shower and getting ready each morning and night; it’s in the minutes I lay in bed before sleep. Some days I do sit and read my Bible or pray for a while, other days I just take a moment to check in with God about my day.
My quiet time is fluid, and it consists of whatever feels best in the moment.
By allowing my quiet time to be fluid, I remove any preset requirements or expectations about what a relationship with God is. Putting requirements on my relationship with God and the time I spend with Him doesn’t create a relationship, only obligation.
When there is obligation, there is room for failure and disappointment, for not being good enough and shame. None of that characterizes God or what it is like to be in relationship with Him.
Once I was able to grasp an understanding of this, I struggled to reconcile my faith with my mental illnesses. I struggled to understand the point of quiet time because I didn’t think anything would come of it. I thought my demons were too strong and that God was absent on the worst days. Years later, I am able to see the point—the strengthening of my faith and a change in my mood. After any time with God, my anxieties are a little less overwhelming. My depression is lifted ever so slightly. My eating disorder is no longer shouting so loudly. Everything is steadied, stable, and I am not fighting my battles alone.
On my recovery journey, I’ve found that spending my bad days and difficult moments with God can ease the battle in my mind.
In these quiet times, I like to journal out my prayers and cries to God or reflect on the promises He has made me.
My faith and my quiet time are fluid, flowing alongside with my recovery and changing together. At this point, they are intertwined to where I’m not sure how to talk about one without talking about the other. For each person, faith and recovery look different. Just as my recovery looks different from yours, my quiet time will look different than yours, and that’s okay.
It’s vital for me and my faith to take a moment or two out of my day to check in with God, to remind myself of His love and promises and that He has claimed victory over my life. It’s important to have some time to be reminded that no matter how I feel or what I’ve done, I have one relationship that will always remain steady and someone I can always spend time with, in whatever way seems best.
I have an anchor for my soul in my daily quiet time with God.
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