Strengthen HOPE by Building Character: Alone with God 

The first house my husband and I owned was perched on the edge of a tree-lined ravine on top of what is known as the Canadian Shield. Basically, it’s a huge metamorphic rock plateau covering much of Canada. It forms the basin for the many clear lakes that dot the northern part of Ontario, making for a hard rock base for one’s feet for those venturous enough to brave the cold waters—nothing like the mucky, warm leech-filled lakes I grew up swimming in in Michigan!

It also made for some clear drinking water. Our well at that house was about 300 feet deep in order to reach a fissure of water, but boy, the ascent up that tube filtered out the best-tasting water we’ve had at any home we’ve lived in since!

I imagine drilling that well took a good amount of work, to get that far down in order to find water, but it was a necessity if someone was going to live there.

If I am going to build character, if I am going to grow as a follower of Christ, I have to dig deep, too, to draw up the Living Water which quenches my thirst and gives me the strength I need for ministering to others.

Recently there has been a lot of discussion amongst Christians regarding leaders who have failed morally. We dare not judge, as we are just as prone to fall if we don’t dig deep, spending time alone with God regularly in order to have strength to serve Him.

So why is it so hard to spend time alone with God? Repeatedly, I see how the tyranny of the urgent keeps me from being still before God. I see how my desire for recognition and being seen as doing something important or just feeling productive can entice me to do more and neglect that quiet time with Him.

When COVID hit hard about this time last year and we were all in shutdown, I had a lot of time on my hands to read and study and pray. It was forced on me, but I was glad for it because I began to realize once I stopped, how tired I was, how depleted my spirit had become from all the activity. It reminded me of another time in my life when God stopped me and taught me how much I needed to learn about resting in God without “doing” anything for Him.

When my husband and I were first married we lived in Toronto, Ontario. Because I was an American living there for a short time before we would head back to the States for his seminary education, I resided on a visitor visa which did not allow me to work. Not only was I a new bride in a foreign country with no friends or family near, I had a lot of time on my hands. Needless to say, I was bored and lonely.

Up until that time I had been working to complete a four-year degree. This was a time of my life in which I scheduled nearly every minute on my calendar in order to get all of my school work, on campus job, church service and extracurricular activities to fit in. Soon after graduation I began working in a full-time ministry, living as a house mother in a home for single mothers and their children while I planned and prepared for my wedding. I had been a busy woman doing lots of “work” for God.

Then it all stopped. As much as I loved my new husband and was thrilled to begin life with him, I began to feel depressed and discouraged, like I wasn’t accomplishing anything meaningful. How was stirring a can of milk into tomato soup and placing soda crackers on the plate for my new husband doing something important? And that didn’t fill up the whole day while he was at work!

Slowly God began working on me. As I was forced to face myself, as alone as I was much of the time, I began to see that this season could be a time for me to grow closer to God because He wanted me to be with Him. While I was simply worshiping Him alone in our tiny apartment, God saw me just as valuable as those years when I was so busy “for” Him, studying and preparing for, and doing ministry.

Those years taught me that I dare not place my value in what I do and I dare not neglect time to rest and refresh in His presence.

Seasons of life press on us that do not enable the same kind of uninterrupted stretches of time for study and prayer and reading and reflection. There have been times in my life when I raced past the couch in my living room and longingly wished I could just stop and sip a cup of tea while I read. However, I knew that though I was extremely busy I was doing what God wanted me to do for that time.

We dare not set legalistic rules about how much time in prayer or Bible reading or meditation or singing of praises we should fit in any day. That looks as fluid as any growing and changing relationship we have on a human level person-to-person.

But what I have learned is that the deeper my walk with Christ is, the more effective I am in ministering to others. I have learned to say “no” more to good things people ask me to do. When I do that, I have greater peace and joy when I do serve because I know I’m leaving time to draw deep out of the well of Living Water.

In his devotional “Strength for the Journey” Joe Stowell says, “Those of us who have the privilege of a relationship with Jesus Christ have a distinct advantage: an impulse toward character. Scripture tells us that we have been chosen and empowered to become ‘conformed to the likeness of His Son’ (Romans 8:29). Credentials were never a primary concern to Him. Jesus Christ gave up his divine credentials to minister here without earthly credentials. Yet His life was compellingly powerful because of His character” (February 23, p. 66).

Our character matters—even more than our spiritual accomplishments. If we believe that, then we must take the time to develop it by stopping to draw from the well of His Word, of His Presence. Like that well in our first house, the deeper it went the sweeter the water got and the more plentiful the supply.

In fact, though the water didn’t pump the required number of gallons per minute for our mortgage to be approved, the condition was waved on the basis that they figured there was enough water in the line itself due to its depth.

The deeper I go into times of rest and fellowship with God, the more I have to give to others. Further, my foundation will be strong enough that, according to His mercy, I can be faithful as a leader of God’s people.

One of Billy Graham’s greatest regrets was that he didn’t study more. We’d do well to learn from someone who knew what it meant to be busy for God.

Hope springs eternal but only when we go to the Source of it all.

Take time to drink deeply.

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About Wendy McCready

Wendy lives in Alma, Ontario, Canada with her husband Mark and two daughters where Mark has been the senior pastor of Alma Bible Church since the summer of 2010. Together they have served for over 15 years in rural and small-town ministry. Their previous small-town pastoral work included a church in the mountains of Colorado while Mark was in seminary, and then in northern Ontario “cottage” country upon graduation. Wendy works as an Educational Assistant in the local schools where she enjoys making community connections in order to share Christ and helping children with special challenges learn new things. She also enjoys participating in music ministry in their church and hosting people in their home.