We’re talking about the pros and cons of different sorts of devotionals and daybooks this month.
I didn’t think much about the first daybook that I bought before buying it. I made an online order full of Christmas gifts last year and decided to throw in a devotional for myself. A week or so before I made note that a well-loved sister at church was reading a devotional by Sarah Young. So, I picked Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence. To be fair, I probably wouldn’t have got to thinking about the prominent place of personal experience in devotion writing if it weren’t for this quote from Sarah Young in her introduction:
“This practice of being still in God’s Presence has increased my intimacy with Him more than any other spiritual discipline, so I want to share some of the writings I have gleaned through these quiet moments.”
I’m not saying that Sarah Young is trying to take God’s place in speaking to you. She is careful to point out that she is not trying to be a replacement for scripture. But.
I think about the preciousness of your unique experience of the presence of God; how he speaks to you so that you can understand in the context of your life and your need. Also, this personal discourse between you and God builds love and faith in a way that you can’t experience by just reading about it through someone else.
I’m a Kpop fan and I really like Shinee. There is a clip of Melania Trump being introduced by one of the Shinee group members, Minho. Melania seemed charmed and some fans on the stage were so shocked and excited to find themselves standing right next to him. I can see that they are beside themselves. I can see what they did and said, but I wasn’t there. What would I have felt if I had turned around to see Minho behind me? If he had bowed to me? What would I have said and did? I don’t know because it didn’t happen to me and it’s not likely to happen to me anytime soon.
Reading a devotional about the intimate moments that another person spends with God might be moving or inspiring, but it’s a second hand experience, and it’s always going to be a bit sterile, and frankly, envy enducing. The thing is we’re all children of God and, unlike a Kpop idol, He isn’t living halfway across the globe. He isn’t surrounded by a team to keep adoring fans away. If you call out to God he will answer you in a way that is just right and for your special relationship with Him. You are His, and He is yours. Why settle for less?
What does this mean when you are shopping for a devotional?
Well, the first thing I would recommend is that you get comfortable with the idea that reading a devotional should not replace your quiet time with God. It’s reading material, not a replacement for prayer or meditation.
The next thing that I would do is open the book and read a page or two. Is the author writing about their personal experiences and is that inspirational for you? Myself, I prefer devotionals that are a collection of Bible passages, quotes or images over those that lean too much on individual experience. That way, I’ll probably be able to meditate on the daily devotion and find a way that it applies to me.
Third, if you do choose a devotional based on an author’s personal narrative think of it as a mini mentoring session. You are inviting this author to share with you the things that they learned from their experiences. You are peers. Therefore, it will be important to think critically about the daily readings and bring them to God in your prayer time.
Next we’ll be talking about finding time to stick with a devotional and how the type of devotional matters when you’re fitting it in.