One of my favorite parts of visiting my husband’s family farm is walking our dog along country roads. Deer scamper through the fields, the crickets sing their chorus, and birds swoop overhead. I’m always amazed when I turn the last corner to complete my loop: a bright bunch of wildflowers marks the spot. Purple, blue, yellow, and white, they grow in beautiful disarray by the edge of the road.
Nobody planted them there on purpose. Instead, the conditions of the environment were just right for wildflowers to grow. There’s nothing blocking them from taking root in that soil.
I want my faith to flourish like those wildflowers, but I must be more intentional in cultivating the conditions for spiritual growth. Learning about and practicing spiritual disciplines like prayer, meditating on God’s word, worship, solitude, and silence have been helpful in this regard. But knowing about these tools and using them are two different things. However well-intentioned we are, sometimes we run into obstacles. Here are two of the most common ones, and some thoughts on how we can overcome them.
Obstacle: Chasing Perfection
Somewhere along the way, we’ve internalized what a perfect quiet time with the Lord should look like. We visualize a scene in the early morning hours, a candle lit next to our cozy chair. The house is silent and there are no distractions. In this perfect scenario we have a large chunk of time in which to study our Bible and pray.
More often than not, this scenario is not attainable. And sometimes, knowing we can’t make this happen discourages us from even trying. We need to release our grip on our expectations of a perfect quiet time and remember that God is with us always. We need only to turn our attention to Him wherever we are. You can pray in the school pick-up line. You can listen to the Bible while you’re folding laundry. You can turn your thoughts to God in the middle of your work meeting. You can retreat for five minutes to read a short passage of Scripture. You can thank and praise Him in line at the grocery store.
Obstacle: Chasing Ease and Comfort
Although Jesus offers salvation and eternal life to anyone who comes to Him, our spiritual growth is not a one time deal. The impetus is on each one of us to walk with God for our whole lifetime. It takes intention and effort to mature spiritually, however, and sometimes that feels too hard. We succumb to distractions. We turn to empty pleasures to numb the pain and difficulty of everyday life. We try to satisfy our soul’s hunger with junk food, not recognizing that our Creator is the source and sustainer of our lives.
To overcome this obstacle we must start with prayer. I want so many things out of this life, but I want to want Him most of all! So I pray that He would increase my desire for Him every day. Secondly, I try to create an environment where turning my thoughts to Him and spending time with Him is easy. I keep Bible and devotional apps easy to access on my phone, and I put my social media apps out of sight in a folder. I leave my Bible out on a side table where I can easily access it. A friend of mine has a little basket with her Bible, pens, and a journal that she can carry to whichever room her kids aren’t occupying. Another friend hangs scripture cards and breath prayers around her house and office.
When we let go of perfection and when we commit to making an effort, we are creating the conditions in which our faith can grow and flourish.
*Look familiar? This post was originally published on the Gather at Dawn blog! You can get the Dawn app here to breathe some new life into your habits of faith!
**Feature Photo by Sunni Chen on Unsplash
2 thoughts on “How to Overcome Obstacles to Spiritual Growth”
I loved how you said that God is with us always and that we can just turn our attention to him regardless of where we are. As beautiful as it sounds though, I find it difficult to focus because of all the stressful thoughts running through my mind. I plan on finding a spiritual coach to guide me through this, but I loved your post.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I’m so glad this resonated with you! I struggle with stressful and distracting thoughts too, and I learned about a spiritual practice called “recollection.” I wrote about here, if you’re interested! https://sarahkbutterfield.com/2022/09/21/how-to-stop-distracting-thoughts-with-the-prayer-of-recollection/