Have you ever noticed that vacations never seem long enough? Sure, you enjoy yourself in the moment, but as the week draws to a close, you begin to find yourself wishing that it could last longer…even if only just a few days more. But have you ever noticed that when you DO have those extra few days, you still find yourself dissatisfied, and longing for more time off? We are never satisfied with a week…or even a few summer months. Why is that? It is because we are chasing after the feeling of satisfaction and contentment and enjoyment in our vacation itself. But a vacation, like every other earthly “pleasure” can never satisfy, and will only leave us longing for more – no matter how long we have “off”. Ever notice that you’re never satisfied with one nice shirt for very long? As soon as the “new shirt” excitement wears off, you’re off shopping for more, hoping that something new – something different – will make you look as beautiful as you’ve always imagined you could look. It’s the same thing; everything in this world that you chase after, hoping it will fulfill you will only leave you looking for more joy, more excitement, more contentment somewhere else. A different house, job, clothes, friends, makeup, hairdo, car, etc., etc. You hope that somehow, at last, something new is going to be the perfect fit for that hole in your spirit; suddenly something will click and everything will magically be as perfect as you’ve dreamed.
We simply will never find contentment in seeking these things, because God has created all things to be dissatisfying apart from seeking Him. He has caused spending time with Him to be the sweetest, most satisfying thing that we could ever do, and it perfectly fills every longing within us.
So, instead of seeking happiness in your summer fun this year…why don’t you try something new (since you already know that doesn’t work)? Below are a few suggestions on how you can get the most out of your summer, and cause it to be fruitful and without regret – bursting with life!
Don’t sleep in.
I know this may not sound like the best tip you’ve ever heard to help you enjoy your summer…but just give it a chance. It’s the best way to make the most of your days. When you sleep in, it always seems like it just sucks the life right out of your day. Now…what time do you want to get up? Ok…now set your alarm an hour (or an hour and a half, if it takes you a long time to wake up) before you would normally get up. The most helpful hint I can give you on being able to actually get out of bed instead of hitting the snooze 20 times is: GET OUT OF BED THE FIRST TIME! Yep. No “snooze”. Just force yourself to get out of bed the minute your hear your alarm. You may be a little groggy at first and have trouble seeing straight…but it’ll wear off after the first 5 minutes or so, and you’ll feel perfectly fine – even without coffee. It can be done; I’ve done it myself.
Spend the first hour of your day with God.
This is why you’re getting up earlier. No more “trying to fit it in somewhere”. Nope. Spending time talking with Jesus is going to be the first thing on your agenda this summer – not sunbathing, not swimming, not hanging out with your friends. You are going to give God the “first-fruits” of your day. And the best thing is, that when you spend that time with Jesus, HE makes the rest of your day SO much more fruitful and full of joy than when you set out to try to do your own thing and fit God in later. And have you ever noticed that it never really seems to fit conveniently into your day to spend time with Jesus? That is why you’re going to put Him first.
Walk and pray.
Whether you do it first thing in the morning or later on in the day, try to get out to walk and pray. Most of my sweetest times with the Lord have been while I’m outside walking and talking with Jesus. Even if you live in a town, I’ve been all over the US and Canada, and almost every town I’ve been in has had neat little walking paths or peaceful neighborhoods that I’ve been able to pray in. An added bonus is that you probably won’t fall asleep while trying to pray. Also, you’ll get to see God’s handiwork, which He so often speaks through, all around you. Oh…and when you go walking (whether meaning to pray or not), ditch your earbuds. Listen to the birds singing, and the breeze blowing through the trees. You’ll find your heart just naturally begin to rejoice in the Lord, and instead of being stuck in the world your music creates for your mind, you’ll be able to praise the Lord in the real world. Try it!
Make a point of praying for your family and friends.
Pray for your parents. Pray for your brothers, your sisters, your friends, and even…your enemies. Ask God to show you specific things to pray for them so you can see specific answers. As you pray for them, God will fill your heart with a fresh love for them as well.
Make a goal of memorizing scripture.
Start with a verse. Once you’ve got it down, try memorizing a verse a week. Or even try memorizing a chapter of the Bible over the summer! It’s hard work for your brain, but persevere. Every bit of scripture you hide in your heart will be a help and blessing to you in the future, as well as right now, and will help you to live in a way that is pleasing to God. (It will also give you a very effective weapon to combat the devil’s lies.) “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” Psalm 119:11.
Memorizing scripture is a very constructive use of time…and something you can do whenever you have extra time on your hands – wherever you are! You may have heard the saying that, “An idle mind is the devil’s playground”. There’s a lot of truth to that. This is why it is so important to saturate your mind with God’s Word.
Read through the gospels.
The gospels are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – the first 4 books of the New Testament…and all of them contain the story of Jesus’ life on earth. They are filled with Jesus’ own words, and it is an amazing thing to be able to read the very words of the Creator of the Universe! Start with Matthew, and see how far you can get throughout the summer. Try reading a chapter a day. You might find that it is so interesting and filled with truth that you may want to read more than that in a day! Reading Jesus’ words for yourself will change your life. But remember to not only read them, but to pray for God’s strength so you can obey them too.
Try to tell at least one person about Jesus every week.
It doesn’t matter if it’s face-to-face, or online, or on the phone…but pray for, and be looking for at least one opportunity to share about Jesus, and what He has done in your life, to someone each week. It’s not only a good way to talk to someone about salvation, but it’s also is a very effective way to keep your own faith built up.
Go out and talk about Jesus with everyone you meet.
Yep, you heard right. Grab a friend or a parent or sibling and hit the streets of your own town (weekends are best) and talk to everyone you meet about Jesus. One easy and effective way to do this is to take along a stack of good tracts with you (we use the Four Spiritual Laws tracts, but there are a few other gospel-centered ones out there – just make sure they actually go through the gospel and how to be saved). I have done this many times. It is a real ice-breaker to be able to hand something to someone walking down the street and say, “Would you like one of these? It’s about Jesus!” Sometimes they’ll take it…sometimes they won’t. But it’s planting seeds that God can work with. And you may find that many people actually are up for standing there and talking about Jesus with you. Some might just want to argue with you…but if you just determine not to get in an argument, and just make sure to share the gospel in what you say, it’s at least something God can use. It may be a little scary at first, but as you do it, God will give you boldness, and will begin to speak through you…and you will find it to be one of the most exciting things you can actually do; sharing the gospel with lost souls!
Fast from the TV.
This is not going to be overly popular either…but for the few who take the challenge, you will be amazed at the difference in your life over the summer. I suggest turning it off completely, but you could also try limiting your time watching TV through the summer to a couple of hours a week. It’s so easy to wake up and just turn on the TV without even thinking, or to default to it when you don’t know what else to do. But TV is so full of sinfulness these days (yes, even the most “innocent” programs are full of hogwash), that it’s like filling our minds with sewage. When you turn it off, it will be like a breath of fresh air for your spirit; we just weren’t made to sit in front of such wickedness and violence day after day! I recommend you get an accountability partner if you can…because it won’t be easy – especially if you’re addicted. But it helps to have someone remind you of your commitment and to hold you accountable. I know when I stand before Jesus, I am never going to wish I had watched more TV, or finished such-and-such season, or been up to date with the most popular programs. You will find your days are full of so much more life and joy! You will actually be able to think and pray. And it is so much easier to hear God’s voice when you don’t have all of the subtle (or not so subtle) world-views of the media clouding your mind.
Fill your time with useful things!
It’s not really going to help your summer any if you fast from the TV, but then just sit around doing nothing all day, wishing you were watching TV. Fill what used to be your “TV time” with useful things. The things that will cause your summer to be most filled with life are the things that are also a blessing to others. Try things like these:
~Ask your parents how you can help them…and then, do what they suggest (with a joyful attitude, knowing that you are blessing the Lord)!
~Come up with creative ways to bless at least one person every day.
~Write encouraging letters to your friends, family, extended family, neighbors, pastor, etc. Share things God has been showing you, scriptures, things they have done that have really blessed you, etc.
~Read missionary biographies and/or the books they (the missionaries themselves) wrote. People like Mary Slessor, Jackie Pullinger, Amy Carmichael, Rosalind Goforth, etc., are all such amazing stories to read because you get to see what God can do with someone who is truly surrendered to Him. Also, a modern-day girl who is giving her life to serve others is Katie Davis, and you can find her book called “Kisses From Katie” online or in most Christian book-stores.
~Visit nursing homes to read the Bible to the people who live there…or even just bring them flowers or crafts or sing with them…there are so many possibilities to bring joy and the love of Jesus to them. (You’ll want to arrange things with the people in charge before-hand.)
~Have Bible studies with your friends. Get together to just read the Bible and talk about it. What a novel concept!
These are just a few things to get you started…and I’m sure God will give you even more amazing ideas if you ask Him to!