Many people feel guilty for missing their quiet time. In fact, it is one reason many people avoid it. Why would we engage in something that we constantly fail at? Here’s my take: if you feel guilt for missing your quiet time, you may be missing the point.
Why do we feel guilty for missing a quiet time?
Guilt arises when our conscience condemns us (Rom 2:15). By God’s design, our conscience acts as a gauge, revealing to us where we have missed the mark. We should bear in mind that while our conscience is generally a reliable gauge, it is not perfect and like the rest of our heart, it is corrupted by the fall. This corruption means that sometimes we feel guilty for things that we shouldn’t feel guilty about, and other times we may not feel guilty where we should. Unfortunately, our quiet time is one area where our conscience is poorly informed.
Here’s why we feel guilty for missing a quiet time: We know deep down that as Christians we should be growing in holiness, and we all recognize that a quiet time is a valuable tool for promoting this growth. Therefore when we don’t actively engage in this growth, we feel guilty.Here’s why we feel guilty for missing a quiet time: We know deep down that we should be growing in holiness Click To Tweet
Of course, there are variations to this (and if you have one, I’d love to you let me know in the comments below), such as making our quiet time into a performance metric we must hit each day.
We can soothe a guilty conscience in two ways:
- By dismissing or diminishing the law or rule our conscience is measuring against
- By justifying our actions
Inadequate answers to quiet time guilt
If we examine blog posts and read books, we find two common responses to the question of guilt for missing quiet times that are inadequate.
We’re not saved by doing a quiet time
The first common response to guilt for missing a quiet time is the reminder that we are saved by grace and not by performance. Often we put a quiet time into the category of a deed we must perform to become or remain a Christian. Certainly, this is wrong. Surely, we’d all agree that we are saved and kept by the grace of God and not because we do anything to gain or keep our salvation.It is right to feel guilty for missing a quiet time if we rarely have a quiet time. Click To Tweet
But just knowing we are saved by grace doesn’t resolve the guilt we sometimes experience for missing a quiet time. This is an indicator that we’ve missed the point. Growth in holiness is something that every Christian should be doing after we’re saved, so arguing that we’re not saved by our quiet time doesn’t address the problem.
The argument that we are not saved by doing a quiet time is an attempt to diminish or modify the law our conscience is measuring against.
I pray without ceasing
This second response could be broader than just prayer. You may have heard variations of this such as, “I listen to sermons/the Bible in my car on the way to work.” Personally, I can recall times when I’ve told others (or rather I convince myself) that I should be praying without ceasing anyway, so what does it matter? It is a wonderful response because it sounds very spiritual and mature.
In reality, responses like this are an attempt to satisfy our conscience by justifying our actions. These arguments make our spiritual discipline sound better than it is.
Is it good to pray without ceasing? Absolutely! Is it good to listen to sermons or the Bible in the car? Of course! But if we are honest with ourselves (which can be very hard), we have to admit that we don’t pray constantly and we don’t listen well to the sermons/Bible in the car, and little change occurs, except perhaps that our pride grows at our feigned spirituality.
Does this sort of on-the-run spiritual discipline achieve significant change? Certainly, there will be times when it might. But for the most part, the value of these disciplines alone will hit a plateau in a short amount of time. Spiritual growth isn’t as easy as these approaches suggest.
Should we feel guilt for missing a quiet time?
Our conscience is not a guard but a gauge. It doesn’t tell us what to do; rather it tells us where we went wrong. Indeed, I believe that there are times when we should feel guilty for missing a quiet time. But that doesn’t mean we should feel guilty for missing any particular quiet time. At least not necessarily.
When is it right to feel guilty for missing a quiet time?
It is right to feel guilty for missing a quiet time if we rarely have a quiet time. God calls us to be holy. Paul made it His aim to be pleasing to the Lord. If God wants us to grow in holiness, and we want to please Him, then growing in holiness should be our aim too.
The key question is, do I want to grow in holiness? We are people who have desires, and the Holy Spirit in us places His desires in us (Gal 5:17), leading to a contest within us. If we have no desire to grow in holiness, then we should repent, and ask the Lord for forgiveness. It may suggest we are not saved at all.If we have no desire to grow in holiness, then we should repent, and ask the Lord for forgiveness. Click To Tweet
On the other hand, if we do have a desire to grow in holiness, then we can embrace that desire and allow it to propel us forward.
When should we not feel guilty for missing a quiet time?
If we have a desire to grow in holiness, and we’ve set aside time on a regular basis to concentrate on this end, then missing a quiet time is not something we should feel guilty about. If we want to grow in holiness, and we discipline ourselves for this end (because we know holiness doesn’t happen accidentally), then the combination of our desire and careful application will ultimately lead to this end.
One individual quiet time here or there is not by itself going to make a big difference. But a month or year in a consistent pattern will result in significant growth, even if we miss a day here and there.
How to resolve guilt for missing your quiet time
It is possible to eliminate the question of guilt entirely from your quiet time. It is possible for your quiet times to become something you genuinely look forward to. Enjoying our quiet time and being free from guilt is possible if we genuinely want to grow in holiness. With this desire in place, we need to set aside a regular time to achieve this end.The war is not to have a quiet time but to put to death the flesh Click To Tweet
If our goal is to grow in holiness, the individual time becomes less important. Instead, the steady growth becomes our goal. Guilt disappears when the war is not to have a quiet time but to put to death the flesh. A regular and disciplined quiet time is a powerful tool to wage war against the desires of the flesh.
If we are growing in Christlikeness and advancing against the corruption of our flesh, then whether we had a quiet time this morning or not is possibly irrelevant. But if we rarely assess and take our thoughts captive to Christ, and if we seldom consider how the desires of the flesh are exercising control over us, and if we don’t determine to take specific actions to become obedient to Christ, then our growth will be negligible at best.
If we seldom devote time and thought to growth in holiness, then the guilt we feel is not merely that we missed a quiet time. Rather it is that we aren’t as concerned about our holiness as we should be, and certainly not as concerned about it as the Lord is.