Is the need to check off a list killing your intimacy with God?

Ashley Wheelon

I’m a fan of lists. I like knowing the expectations and being able to see my progress toward the end goal. But in my current role as a stay-at-home mom to four children, this desire to complete a list often leads to frustration. 

There are days where I work hard to check off every box. I get all the laundry done, clean each room in the house, and fix dinner. But by the time I go to bed, there are more dirty clothes in the hamper, toothpaste in the bathroom sink, and three more meals to prepare for the next day. My list is never-ending. Something always replaces what was just checked off. 

Over time, God showed me I wasn’t just accomplishing a set of tasks each day. I was faithfully serving my family — a lifelong call He has placed on my life. So while I still go to bed with a growing list of things for the next day, I do my best to see those tasks as acts of love for my family rather than a to-do list.  

Does Your Faith Feel Like a To-Do List?

If I’m not careful, I can start to see my relationship with God as a checklist as well. And I don’t think I’m alone. For a lot of us, following Jesus can feel like a list of things to do: 

  • Read the Bible.
  • Pray.
  • Go to church.
  • Join a small group.
  • And, if you have extra time or are extra spiritual, write in a journal.  

These are all good things! But they’re only beneficial when we see them as a means to grow more intimate in our relationship with God. 

When God begins a good work in us, He will be faithful to complete it (Philippians 1:6). This work begins the day we accept God’s gift of salvation and continues each day until we meet Jesus in heaven. When we surrender our lives to Jesus, God works in us to make us more like His Son so we can reflect His glory to those around us. In a letter to the church in Rome, the apostle Paul says, “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life” (Romans 6:22). 

Becoming holy isn’t something we can check off a list at the end of a productive day.

God uses every circumstance, every conflict, every joy, and every pain to make us more holy. “Becoming holy” isn’t something we can check off a list at the end of a productive day. It’s a process that only happens when we’re in a relationship with God, and it changes our perspective on our to-do lists. 

We read the Bible to learn about the God who loves and pursues us. We pray because we want to talk to God about our circumstances and emotions, and we want to receive the Holy Spirit’s guidance. We go to church to be a part of God’s community, to use our spiritual gifts to serve others, to speak and receive words that build each other up

Don’t Mistake Productivity for Intimacy

John 15 is an incredible picture of what life as a follower of Jesus looks like. God is the vine and we are the branches. At no point does a branch detach itself from the vine because it’s done everything it’s supposed to do. If a branch becomes separated from the vine, it dies. Instead, a branch stays connected to the vine, receiving nutrients that in turn produce fruit. 

When we follow Jesus, we  jump into a relationship that brings God glory, brings us joy, and does the world good.

In the same way, we will never reach a point where we can separate ourselves from God because we’re done with everything on our spiritual to-do list. Instead, as we stay connected to God through His Word, prayer, and godly relationships, He gives us what we need. God equips us to meet each challenge and face each circumstance in a way that makes us holier and brings Him glory. The fruit His presence produces in us is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). 

When we follow Jesus into a relationship, we throw all to-do lists out the window and jump into a relationship that brings God glory, brings us joy, and does the world good.

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