Written By: Matthew Mangaran

“…and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8)

I know that’s what I need to do. This year has been exhausting, and I know that drawing close to God and Him drawing close to me is exactly what I need right now. Around this time last year, I spent a week in the mountains of Colorado with other brothers in Christ who were seeking to hear God’s voice and receive His guidance. It was an incredible time! God revealed a lot about my identity, worth, and value as I escaped the busyness of life and focused on “being still.” Now, however, like many Americans confined to their homes due to this pandemic, it’s so easy for life to get stuck on “repeat” and just go through the motions. It’s easy to get caught up in the negativity around us through the media when what we really need is to be caught up in His presence – (“I just want to sit here at Your feet.”). Sometimes I get angry, disappointed, and sad about the riots and protesters that are causing our nation to be divided, the same nation and citizens I served, and risked my life for during my military career.

I know what I need to do. I need to get into His Word, pray, and talk about His truths. Really, that’s what I want to do each night. I tell myself that’s what I’m going to do after work and dinner and playing with the kids and getting them down for bed. Still, like Paul said, “For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.” (Romans 7:15) I’m neglecting our God, who has created me to be where I am today. He’s the same God who brought victory into my life in the past and has even greater victory ahead of me, but I don’t feel like I’m preparing myself like the warrior who deserves that prize.

This isn’t anything new. Spending so much of my time and energy on work and sometimes being unable to “turn it off” after working hours affects my time with my family and with God. On top of that, working from home during this pandemic brings additional challenges that many of us aren’t used to. I speak to my team at work through a headset while looking at their profile pictures on my screen, and I wonder if I’m doing enough to stay connected to them. Not having to commute gives me extra free time, which can be great…that is, until I lose track of time in “work mode.” Don’t get me wrong. I’m extremely grateful to have a job and to be home with my family. However, part of me feels guilty for being under the same roof as them, but not being able to spend quality time with them because of work. Then, I’m tired at the end of the day, and my family gets the leftovers.

“Am I able? Am I good enough?” The same questions that I asked myself last year about whether I was a good enough husband, father, leader, or manager crept in my head. I know that when doubt comes and my mind gets filled with lies, I need to draw near to God to hear His truths. Still, however, I put on mindless videos on YouTube or watch fruitless shows on Netflix instead. Lord, help me!

Indeed, “Lord, help me.” The good thing about my current situation is that I’m aware of what’s going on, but just knowing what’s wrong and trying to do things on my own power isn’t enough. But God has the power to bring change into my life as I pray for His grace. God doesn’t think less of me if I ask Him to help me spend more time with Him. In fact, that’s what He wants for us; He wants us to come to Him, especially when we are weary and carry heavy burdens, in order for Him to give us rest (Matthew 11:28).

Written By: Matthew Mangaran