I’ve allotted an hour to spend time with the Lord before work in the morning but woke up late. Now what?
Who doesn’t relate to this question?
To be sure, not everyone has their devotional time first thing in the morning. Some Christians close the day with extended time in the Word and prayer. Some take a lunch hour for devotions. But nearly everyone has experienced missing a day (or more), daydreaming away a prayer time, or skimming Scripture while our mind is elsewhere.
On my best mornings, I treasure my early time with God’s Word. Besides the awe I want to always have over spending time in our King’s presence (a King who loves me, no less), that communion with him has a way of steadying and strengthening me for the day ahead with a tender heart and a humble mind that only he can form in me (1 Pet. 3:8).
But Lord knows (literally) I have my mornings of cutting the time short (whether because I oversleep or get distracted by other tasks) or missing the time altogether. Whenever I do, I feel off-kilter heading into the day. I may be impatiently short with a neighbor on my way out the door when I should have slowed down and been gracious. I may feel overwhelmed by the responsibilities of the day instead of casting anxieties on him and taking up his easy burden and light yoke. I may make decisions based more on human rationale than spiritual wisdom.
After these kinds of mornings, I often open his Word later that night and realize how I should have lived the day according to his counsel—and I wish I could redo it from the start. So what should we do when those days come?
1. Don’t condemn.
If our initial reaction is despair, we can start by reminding ourselves there’s no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1) and that our good works, daily Bible reading and otherwise, will never save us (Eph. 2:8–9).
If we’ve sinned by prioritizing other things over God, we can earnestly repent. We know our God promises to forgive us when we confess our sin to him (1 John 1:9). Nothing, not even missed time with him, can separate us from his love (Rom. 8:38–39).
2. Keep the priority.
Even so, we don’t want our missed time with him to become a gradually accepted habit if we prioritize it less and less. Both Moses in the Old Testament and Jesus in the New described God’s Word as sustenance—more necessary even than food (Deut. 8:3; Matt. 4:4). We’re right to view Scripture as the lamp to our feet and light to our path (Ps. 119:105). It alone can discern the thoughts and intentions of our hearts, which are too deceitful to understand otherwise (Jer. 17:9; Heb. 4:12). It’s our one offensive weapon against the schemes of the Enemy (Eph. 6:17) and the source of our very faith (Rom. 10:17).
Nothing, not even missed time with God, can separate us from his love.
Because of that, we’ll undoubtedly feel consequences throughout the day from that lacked time—not in the form of condemnation but in natural discipline. Our actions have consequences. Without a good night’s sleep, I’d expect to be a bit sluggish and foggy-brained the next day. I can still function and manage my way, but I know the effects of the lack, and that makes me even more determined to have it.
3. Get creative.
There’s no substitute for the Word of God in our lives. We need this God-breathed source of teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training to complete and equip us (2 Tim. 3:16–17) and to tether us to the truth of a God who never changes (James 1:17).
But when we miss an hour of sitting on the couch reading our physical Bible, maybe we can still find creative ways to get it in (even without making them regular substitutions). Can I listen to the Bible on audio while driving to work? Can I read a chapter over my lunch break? Can I have songs with Scripture-based lyrics playing at home while I complete other tasks? A feast of reading may best prepare us for the day, but even a smaller, later meal of daily bread is better than no meal at all.
4. Turn to prayer.
On the days we successfully spend in the Word and on the days we miss it, we’re right to remember we have the Word of God himself with us always (John 1:1; Matt. 28:20). He is never far from us—so close that we can seek him, reach out for him, and find him (Acts 17:27). We’re commanded to pray without ceasing—in the Spirit, on all occasions, bringing all kinds of requests (1 Thess. 5:16; Eph. 6:18).
Whatever the day may bring, and as busy as it may be, there’s no place—no office, commute, kitchen sink, classroom, or airport—where we cannot commune with the Author of life (Acts 3:15). We may not have spent time with a printed copy of his Word in our hands, but this isn’t the only way he invites us to meet him.
5. Analyze and plan.
We can also learn from what happened, planning how we can avoid it tomorrow. Did I oversleep because I was up too late the night before? Did I get sucked into social media and spend more time scrolling than I intended? Was I trying to read my Bible in the busy intersection of a shared living room rather than in a secluded place less prone to interruptions?
Even more significantly, did I miss my time in the morning because it’s not actually that high of a priority to me? Do I doubt whether his Word is truly as powerful and critical for my life as he says it is?
Our Enemy doesn’t want us in our Bibles, so surely he has plenty of schemes up his sleeve to keep us from them. By identifying his temptations, considering our weaknesses, and planning a defense against them, we can guard the good deposit entrusted to us by the Holy Spirit—our Enemy’s greatest threat (2 Tim. 1:14). And no temptation—not even an extra TV episode late at night or checking emails right when we wake up—is too great for us to resist (1 Cor. 10:13).
Mercies New Every Morning
God’s mercies are new every morning (Lam. 3:22)—they were this morning when we overslept, and they will be tomorrow as we aim to try again.
In the meantime, we can lie down and sleep in peace (Ps. 4:8), reminding ourselves that God’s Word is more precious than gold and sweeter than honey (Ps. 19:10) and entrusting ourselves to his steadfast love, because even when we’re faithless, he remains faithful (2 Tim. 2:13).