Growth in God is best looked at through the lens of seasons. At the beginning of a season I usually sense God presenting me with a main goal, an area of my life he wants to redeem and restore. And the growth I experience is usually related to the depth at which I give myself to God’s process, to how obedient and open-hearted I am to his work in my life.
A quick note about spiritual growth: I’m not talking about spiritual growth as if it is linear. It doesn’t really work that way. Spiritual development doesn’t happen curricularly — where at the end of the semester I get some sort of diploma of sanctification. I think spiritual growth is more like uncovering what was underneath than it is adding on or progressing forward. It’s more about removing the layers of lies and sin, allowing God to heal and restore us to who he’s made us to be, than adding to our lives that which wasn’t there to begin with. And the reality is this growth is a lot more cyclical than it is linear. Now back to the topic at hand…
In this season of growth, I sense God calling my attention to the way in which I end my day. For years I focused a lot of my attention on getting good time alone with God in the morning. I firmly believe that the quality of our time alone with God first thing has the greatest single positive impact on our life of any other investment of time we could make. But as God has been drawing me into his presence in the evening, encouraging me to set aside time before I sleep to rest in him, I’ve been coming up on a fascinating discovery.
Second to time alone with God in the morning, The way in which I spend my time right before I go to sleep has the most dramatic effect on the daily depth of abundant life I experience.
For instance, if I will start and end my day with God, it’s far easier to abide in God throughout the other moments of the day. I find that I’m able to soak up the wonderful moments, and meet my challenges head on with courage, peace, and faith when my day begins and ends with time set aside for God. I find that I seem to invite heaven to come throughout my day when I make time at the beginning and end of my day to remember that heaven is my true home.
I’ve also been discovering that it really helps to create time at the end of the day to gain God’s perspective on the highs and lows that inevitably happen. And rather than carrying stresses with me day to day, if I will make time to hand over my stress to God every evening, I find I awake to a greater depth of freedom and peace.
One of my greatest struggles is getting sucked into entertainment in the evening. By the end of the day of work, cleaning, cooking, and chasing my toddler around, I’m pretty well exhausted. And I find it really easy to buy into the lie that true rest is zoning out in front of Netflix. And oftentimes if I don’t set a goal of when the TV turns off, I end up going to bed a lot later than I hoped, and waking up in the morning is more of a struggle.
As I make space to meet with him before going to sleep, I’ve been fascinated by how much easier it is to wake up when I want to in the morning, and how much deeper I can go in God with the time I do set aside.
Take a moment and think about your last few evenings. What was wonderful about them? What could be better? What effect would a few minutes alone with God before you go to sleep have on the rest of your day?
The point here isn’t to add another should to your day in the evenings when you’re trying to rest. The point is to create rhythms that help you get the most out of each day. The point is to set yourself up to experience the fullness of life God has for you every moment.
Practically I made the decision to give up watching entertainment after 9:00 p.m. for Lent. In this season I’m making space for the last hour or so I’m awake to read books, Scripture, listen to a worship song, and journal.
So try it out! Pick a Psalm and a worship song to read and listen to before you sleep. Take a few minutes to journal about your day. Take a moment to hand over to God anything that’s weighing on your mind before you sleep. I think you’ll find that ending your days with a few moments alone with God will invite his presence into the rest of your day in a new way, give you greater levels of perspective and peace, and ultimately equip you to experience new depths of abundance as you abide in your good and loving Father.
P.S. As you try this out, come back and comment below with your testimony! Sharing what God is doing in your life, even through something as basic as the comment box below, can encourage and even change the life of someone else.
Craig Denison is the author of First15, a daily devotional guiding over 1 million believers into a fresh experience with God’s presence every day. He writes, speaks, and he and his wife, Rachel lead worship to help believers establish a more tangible, meaningful connection with God.