“Then he said to the crowd: ‘If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me.’” Luke 9:23 (NLT)
Over the years, I have felt the desire to become more than just a checklist Christian.
I wrestled with the question “How can I grow closer to God?” And I wasn’t looking for Sunday school answers: Go to church. Read the Bible. Don’t cuss. Be nice. Pray. Those are all good things. Things we should do. But we can do all those things and still have hearts far from God.
When our relationship with God becomes more of a routine rather than a revival, something needs to change. Instead of habit, I craved connection, communion and closeness with God.
I didn’t want to just know of Him or know about Him — I wanted to truly know Him.
The New Living Translation puts Jesus’ words in Luke 9:23 like this: “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me.”
I want this kind of all-out pursuit with God. But what does this look like in today’s culture? I think part of what it means is breaking old habits to create space in my heart for new growth. Not turning to outside sources for fulfillment of an inside craving only God can satisfy. Distracting myself with Netflix, social media and food can only get me so far in a world where truly the only option for peace is God alone.
In reality, God desires our sacrifice — our turning from selfish ways — not for His benefit but for ours.
For instance, I stopped watching TV for a season. I realized I was turning on the TV when I felt most depleted — and when I’m most depleted, I deeply soak up whatever I take in. Why would I want to deeply soak in the entertainment of this world and not things that breathe life back into me? I broke the old habit of watching television and created space in my heart for new growth.
Another example is my commitment to do nothing else each morning — including checking my phone or scrolling on social media — before I open up God’s Word. I used to wake up eager to tune in to the world. I’d soon be sucked in to answering this email, reading that Instagram post and returning text messages. Before I knew it, half my day was gone, and I hadn’t let God prepare my heart for any of it. So I broke the old habit and created space in my heart for new growth.
In other seasons, it was intentionally sacrificing sugar and processed foods that turn into sugar once consumed. Yes, I wanted to maintain my weight loss. But the journey was so much more than just that. It really was about learning to tell myself “no” and learning to make wiser choices daily. And somehow becoming a woman of self-discipline honors God and helps me live the godly characteristic of self-control. Giving up sugar was hard at first — really hard, like crying-big-crocodile-tears hard. But I broke the old habit and created space in my heart for growth.
Am I saying all my friends here need to do the same? No more TV? No checking your phone first thing in the morning? No sugar? Nope. These aren’t things I think everyone needs to do. They were personal practices based on where I was and where I felt like God wanted me to be. I’m not asking you to follow me; I’m saying follow wholeheartedly after God. Ask Him. Seek Him. Do what He tells you.
And while it might sound like a lot to ask, to give up and sacrifice things in order to follow Jesus … friend, I know the experience of closeness with God is unlike any other thing and worth it every time.
It’s the kind of closeness that will help us when we wake up in the middle of the night, full of uncertainties and fear.
It’s the kind of closeness that reminds me I will be OK, even when I’m not sure I will be.
It’s the kind of closeness that comforts me with wisdom and truth when I can’t see past what is in front of me.
God doesn’t want to punish us with distancing ourselves from what we are craving. He wants us to replace what we are craving with Himself. Break the old habit and create space in your heart for new growth and closeness.
Dear Lord, I realize You do not need me. I need You. But I don’t often live each day understanding this. Far too often, I forge ahead and battle my issues without You. I want to grow closer to You, to live each day with You. Help me to remember You will never leave me. Thank You for loving me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
OUR FAVORITE THINGS
Friend, you are not alone in wanting something to change. Join our next Online Bible Study, I’ll Start Again Monday by Lysa TerKeurst, and conquer your frustration from failed quick fixes by pursuing healthy choices and habits that make you feel empowered, not deprived. For 30 days of living fully in today rather than always looking to start over on Mondays, click here to sign up, and let's make imperfect progress together, starting on April 1.
Find real-life encouragement when you connect with Lysa TerKeurst here on Instagram.
FOR DEEPER STUDY
Luke 9:24, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.” (NIV)
When you consider what distracts you from finding the closeness to the Lord that you are so desperately craving, what comes to mind? Take time today and write out these things; then ask the Lord to help you surrender that list and make changes.
We’d love to hear from you! Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
© 2022 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.
What We Believe
If your life feels too overwhelming, click here for our care and counseling resources.