Like most people born and raised in the South, I grew up attending church every Sunday, and believing in God was never a question for me. Even when I went to college and moved out on my own, finding a home congregation was at the top of my to-do list. I never took my faith for granted, but it’s gone through multiple ups and downs over the past ten years. Through family drama, friendships breaking up, and career difficulties, there were many times when I lost my focus on God. Romans 1:17 states that “the righteous shall live by faith,” but it took me many years to realize that faith is more than just a belief that God is real. As the foundation of our understanding of love, grace, hope, compassion, and generosity, it needs to be constantly nurtured. My faith is stronger now than it’s ever been, and it’s due to several habits that I’ve adopted over the past couple of years. Just like budgeting and exercise, I found that small changes can turn into lifestyle routines, which in turn keep me focused on God and the church, even when life gets busy.
Ever since I started attending my current congregation three years ago, I’ve said yes to a lot of events and projects, even ones I always swore I would never do! Over the past year, I’ve started teaching Sunday school, hosting devotionals, volunteering at community events like Trunk or Treat, and making dinner for families in need. God always provides opportunities for service, and not only am I helping others, but getting out of my comfort zone gives my faith a chance to grow.
James 2:14 asks “what good is it if someone says he has faith but does not have works?,” and my faith has been strengthened by seeing the faith and love of others in action. Even when I’m scared to try something different, I’m never doing it alone. Not only am I spending time with great friends, but I always end up getting to know my fellow Christians better than I did before.
There’s something really special about Christian friendships, and female Christian friendships in particular. It’s easy to make acquaintances with your pew buddies on Sunday morning, but lifelong friendships are made by spending time with each outside of church services. Through service projects, ladies retreats, monthly devos, and movie nights, I’ve connected myself with a nurturing support system. We spend a lot of time together having fun, but we’re also there to encourage each other through all of life’s challenges. Even when you think someone is too young, too old, or too different to be a close friend, you’ll never know unless you actually spend time with them!
This changed, though, when I started reading history books that explained the culture of the Old and New Testament civilizations. All of a sudden, passages that I always glanced over came alive, and my faith in the Word of God became real and genuine. Just like Shakespeare, the authors of the Bible took for granted that their audiences would understand different phrases or references, since they had no way to imagine how different life would be in 2000 years. It took me several years to realize that I wasn’t a poor Christian when I didn’t understand something; I just needed extra information. Lois Tverberg’s books in particular helped illuminate the lessons that Jesus taught to his disciples, and I highly recommend them to anyone looking for a deeper study of his life.
Read & Listen to the Word of God
Growing up, I heard our preacher quote Romans 10:17 at the end of every sermon, so I’ve always known that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” However, nobody ever really taught me how to study the Bible on my own at home. I faithfully attended worship services, but my Bible remained closed from one Sunday to the next.
Along with history books, I’ve also started using devotional books that focus on a particular topic, and my newest habit is to listen to podcasts of sermons. A lot of churches load their weekly sermons into iTunes, so it’s a great way to listen to your favorite preachers during the week. The Bible Project is another one of my favorite resources, and I watch their videos before I start studying a new book in the Bible. The videos are typically 5-10 minutes long, but they contain a wealth of knowledge that illuminates the larger themes within the text.
There are also lots of fun ways to incorporate God’s Word into your daily routine. Social media is filled with Christians who share inspirational quotes and blogs, and most of them are women lifting up other Christian women. Also, I know we all love a good romance movie on Hallmark, but there are so many authors who write similar stories with characters who actually act like us. The Christian fiction section of the bookstore is filled with characters that attend church, pray to God, and struggle with their faith, all in the middle of a romance novel. Lynn Austin and Tamera Alexander are especially talented at writing historical fiction with insightful and inspiring devotionals right in the middle of the romance, and I’ve read every one of their books.
Little Ways to Change Our Routines
All of us who believe in God know that we don’t spend as much time with Him as we should, since we spend so much of our lives working and taking care of our families. However, if we find little ways to change our routines, our faith will naturally grow and mature. If you don’t have time to attend a ladies retreat, invite someone to lunch after church and get to know them a little better! If you drive 30 minutes to work, find a podcast and listen to a sermon, instead of the same music on the radio. If you enjoy reading novels, pick up something in the Christian fiction section and enjoy reading about a character that you can actually relate to. Once you find the best way to nurture your faith every day, you’ll be amazed at how quickly studying your Bible or serving others turns from a chore into a joy.
Sarah has a Master’s degree in Library Science and a Bachelor of Arts in History. She is avid reader and travels the world to see all the places reading takes her.