What do editors, heart surgeons, personal trainers, and professional organizers have in common? They all face a challenging task: Whether it’s unnecessary words, blockage in an artery, excess weight, or hoarded clutter, they must facilitate the elimination of what’s bad (or redundant) to make room for what’s good and needed.
In affluent societies, materialism commonly runs rampant, and individuals invest much of their energy accumulating goods they don’t even have time to enjoy. Then spring-cleaning becomes a kind of do-over for those who didn’t keep their New Year’s resolution to get organized. Just as diet and exercise books fly off bookstore shelves in nations with obesity epidemics, a slew of trendy bestsellers now promise to help people declutter and purge their lives of what is weighing them down. However, neither a strict detox regime nor a clean sweep of one’s home will get to the heart of what causes dissatisfaction and stress for so many. What it comes down to is a need for spiritual spring-cleaning, and not just once a year but every day.
Read Josh. 24:14-15; 2 Tim. 2:20-26; 1 John 1:5-10
Before opening your Bible, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal what He wants you to take away from these verses. Then read the passages, jotting down your first impressions: What questions do you have? Is anything confusing? Which verses speak into your present situation, and how?
Physical clutter can waste time (searching for things) and money (replacing things one can’t find) and, in the process, create unnecessary strain. What’s more, it paints a picture—rightly or wrongly—of a person who is materialistic, misguided, or disorganized. The consequences of spiritual clutter are far worse. When not dealt with, the worries, unconfessed sins, or bitterness crowding your heart can:
• Muffle God’s voice in your life.
• Rob you of joy.
• Harm your Christian witness.
• Stunt spiritual growth.
• Poison relationships.
Spiritual spring-cleaning is more important than any other task on your to-do list. But the good news is, you don’t have to muddle through it alone or depend on the help of someone who doesn’t understand your needs and struggles. The Holy Spirit can give you the courage to turn your mess over to God (2 Corinthians 7:1), and the blood of Jesus does the purifying work that clears away darkness.
This doesn’t mean there’s no work for you to do. God is not a housekeeper you call on once in a while to tidy your spiritual house for you. The Lord expects His children to be involved in regular maintenance.
Write your thoughts in a journal.
• Who doesn’t like the idea of having a clean, tidy, and attractive house? What most of us dislike is the idea of doing the work needed to make our homes lovely. And yet housekeeping is not an impossible task. We all have the basic skills needed to dust a surface or to put things where they belong. We just wish we didn’t have to.
Keeping your spiritual life in order takes commitment and discipline—not superhuman abilities.
Many followers of Jesus Christ want to be right with God and effective in ministry, but fewer want to do what it takes to achieve those goals. However, just as cleaning the house is something the average person can do, keeping your spiritual life in order is also within reach. You need commitment and discipline—not superhuman abilities.
• Reread Joshua’s challenge to the Israelites (Josh. 24:14-15), and consider how to apply those verses in your own life. Does serving the Lord seem desirable or undesirable to you? Ask yourself, Do I fear the Lord and serve Him with sincerity and truth? Or do I approach kingdom work out of a sense of duty or with the purpose of gaining the admiration of others? Have you—or are you willing to—put away the “gods” that divide your attention? Let God speak to you as you reflect on these questions.
Basic principles of spring-cleaning can easily be applied to spiritual life. Here is a suggested plan of action:
• Pray. Ask for discernment about what needs to be cleared out of your life—and for courage to make a clean break with those things.
• Ask for help. This process may call for counsel from a pastor or trusted friend on certain issues, or the prayer support of loved ones.
• Do a clean sweep. Identify activities, relationships, attitudes, and even possessions that hinder your walk with God. Confess areas that fall short of His best (1 John 1:9) and prayerfully eliminate them.
• Work on one thing at a time. Don’t try to revolutionize your entire life in a day. Beginning with the most urgent, deal with one issue before moving on to the next.
• Have a game plan. Decide how you’ll keep your spiritual life in order. It could mean scheduling more quiet time with God, joining a Bible study, or enlisting the help of a mentor or accountability partner. Also, plan ahead! Determine how you will respond to the temptations or pressures that trip you up, and make non-negotiable decisions about what doesn’t belong in your life.
• In the coming days, take time to identify those things in your life that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy—as well as those that are not. (See Phil. 4:8.) Consider ways you can keep your mind tuned into the former and at the same time clear your life of the latter.
• Make a point of praying and thinking about your spiritual state whenever you do housework or other chores. For example, confess your sins as you wash dishes. Or while folding laundry, reflect on which priorities need to be rearranged.
• Read Psalm 51 slowly, making each phrase a personal prayer. For more impact, try writing out the entire chapter.
Magnolia, 19th Century (oil on canvas), by Wilhelm List