How to Live a Life of Holy Leisure, Even When Your Life’s Not Leisurely

The Secret Path of Life

There’s a not-so-secret secret to the Christian life. It’s no exaggeration to say that it’s part of the answer to all your problems, and the key to your spiritual growth. When this secret is applied, even amidst great personal difficulty, you’ll experience more joy, more peace, and more victory over sin. What is this secret Christian sauce, you ask?  

You probably already know what it is. Depending on your consistency in applying it, you might feel pretty good about your walk with the Lord, or conversely, like you’re just not measuring up. The not-so-secret secret to your spiritual growth is spending time with God in prayer and in the study of his Word. We often refer to it as quiet time or personal devotional time.

There’s no verse that explicitly says, “Thou shalt have a quiet time with God every day,” but the practice is illustrated throughout scripture. Moses met with God on Mount Sinai, and David met with God and poured out his heart through song and psalm. Most importantly, Jesus modeled this kind of private devotional life by getting up early, while it was still dark, and going to a solitary place to pray (Mark 1:35). 

The Secret and the Key

So if having a personal quiet time is the secret and the key to spiritual growth, why do so many Christians struggle to do it? If you’ve ever felt like your quiet time was something you should do, but secretly didn’t feel like doing, you’re not alone. 

According to a 2021 State of the Bible study conducted by Barna, this is a common struggle among U.S. Christians. While 30% of those surveyed believe the Bible contains everything a person needs to live a meaningful life, only 11% read the Bible every day, and only 9% read the Bible weekly. 

In the same survey, seven in ten Americans believe the Bible is the Word of God, and over half (55%) believe it’s without error. 

There’s a disconnect between what Christians believe is true about God’s Word, and their willingness to order their lives around the Word. 

The Struggle is Real

I know this struggle. For years, especially when my kids were little, time in the Word seemed like a luxury of time I could rarely afford. Sleep was a rare commodity, and I used any quiet moment to rest or, conversely, frantically work to get something done. When I did sit down to read, children often interrupted, distracted, or rushed me. Quiet time felt like a chore I had to do before I got to the real work of the day. 

I enjoyed reading God’s Word when I finally made the effort to meet with him, but my emotions didn’t always follow my actions. Sometimes it felt like a box I dutifully checked off my to-do list. Other times, despite my legalistic attitude, it was the refreshment and encouragement I desperately needed. 

Because I read the Word as a duty, not a delight, missing a day meant I had failed. I was trapped in a cycle dictated by my emotions. As a result, my quiet times were hit or miss, but mostly misses.

The Discovery of Holy Leisure

One day as I read a book about spiritual disciplines, I came across this quote that changed my thinking: 

“The church Fathers often spoke of Otium Sanctum, ‘holy leisure.’ It refers to a sense of balance in life, an ability to be at peace through the activities of the day, an ability to rest and take time to enjoy beauty, and an ability to pace ourselves.”

(Celebration of Discipline, Foster, 39)

Every word in that sentence jumped off the page at me. It encompassed everything I lacked and desperately needed in my Christian life. I longed to have more balance in my priorities (and less guilt), more peace (and less anxiety), more rest (and less striving), more appreciation of beauty, and an acceptance of my pace of life. Instead of feeling obligated to meet with him, I wanted it to be my passionate desire and my holy leisure. 

How to Start a Life of Holy Leisure

The discovery of holy leisure was a game-changer for me. My legalistic heart was freed to enjoy God’s Word again. Instead of dutifully showing up to meet with God, it became my delight. 

I still don’t have perfect attendance with the Lord, but that’s no longer the point. A life of holy leisure isn’t necessarily leisurely. However, time spent with the Lord is marked by the tenets of balance, peace, beauty, rest, pace, and grace. After all, seeing and savoring the beauty of Jesus Christ in his Word is the most enjoyable experience in the world, therefore it is genuinely our holy leisure.

Do you long to have a more consistent quiet time with the Lord? Or do you feel guilty that you should want to be in the Word more but often lack the desire? These resources have been developed for you. You are my people, and I get you.

From Quiet Time to Holy Leisure Time

To learn some foundational principles of how to set up a regular rhythm of meeting with God, this resource walks you through the fundamentals of setting up a quiet time (or a holy leisure time) that you’ll enjoy returning to again, and again, and again. 

Holy Leisure is a Mindset

This resource will help you better apply the tenets of holy leisure, namely, balance, peace, rest, beauty, pace, and grace, in your meetings with the Lord. You’ll also find links to past articles that will guide you toward a holy leisure mindset.

Paths of the Righteous

This eBook consists of six devotionals from Psalm 23. Inside, you’ll walk the well-worn paths of these saints: Amy Carmichael, Hudson Taylor, Corrie ten Boom, Gladys Alward, Lillian Trasher, and Nate Saint, and see how they applied their faith to real life. 

The Path that Leads to Holy Leisure

Developing (and enjoying) a regular rhythm of meeting with God is the not-so-secret secret to growth in the Christian life. Missionaries in Africa knew this secret and taught their converts the necessity of having a quiet time. Seeking to obey, the new Christians found private places in the bush where they would go and pray. Over time, their paths became well-worn, and the state of their paths became an indicator of the state of their souls. When one had neglected to meet with the Lord for a time, the other believers would gently remind him, “Brother, the grass grows in your path.”

The path that leads you into the presence of God is the most important road you’ll ever travel. Psalm 16:11 says, “You will show me the path of life, in your presence is the fullness of joy, at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” 

Don’t settle for an overgrown, rarely-traveled path that feels more like a duty than a delight. There’s a better mindset, a better path, and a better way. It’s the path of holy leisure, and I hope you’ll pursue it with me.


P.S. I’m curious. Do you struggle to meet consistently with God in his Word? Has the idea of reframing that time as ‘holy leisure’ freed you to enjoy it? I’d love to hear your thoughts below.

2 Responses

  1. What a magnificent blog post! I’ve even learned a new word for my ‘quiet time’ (which is never really quiet). I’m so delighted that I came across your blog. Yes, I wrestle with legalistic feelings about it too. It always seems like the time I spend in Bible study isn’t deep enough, and my prayers never quite measure up. But I’m trying to capture my thoughts by simply saying, ‘Jesus is enough, and I belong to Him. He is my Messiah, and as I read my Bible, I ask for light and for a firmer focus on Him.’

    But deep inside me, there’s often this anxious little voice that nags at me and compares me to others who are more disciplined or who know Scripture better, or who seem to receive special messages from the Lord or focus on dogma more intensely. My mind may be small, and I may be small, but I know that Jesus is enough. So, I strive to concentrate more and more on Him, on His work, His character, His promises, and so on. 📖🙏💫

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