Imagine: it’s time for you to wake up one morning, but you just keep sleeping. Sunlight streams into the room, but you’re not outside to enjoy a morning walk in nature. Your alarm clock starts playing beautiful music, yet you can’t hear it. Your spouse reaches out to hug you, but you can’t feel it. Your children and pets try to play with you, but in vain. One of your friends calls you to talk and you can’t connect. A project you’ve been excited to work on remains undone. Since you’re asleep, you miss out on enjoying all those experiences.
It's easy to see how much you’ll miss if you sleep through your days, physically. But you may not be aware that you’re missing out on even more if you’re spiritually asleep. It’s possible to go through life with your body awake but your soul asleep. That happens when you’re not seeking God day by day. When you’re not intentionally connecting with God, your life will shrink down to the level of your to-do list, without the greater meaning and joy God intends for you.
Hebrews 2:4 promises that God testifies to people’s salvation “by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.” When you’re spiritually awake, you experience the wonder of discovering and enjoying God’s work around you. The key to waking up spiritually is waking up to the wonder that points to God’s work in your life.
Here are 5 ways to wake up spiritually, adapted from my book Wake Up to Wonder:
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1. Prioritize Pursuing Wonder
Wonder can enlarge your perspective. When you encounter wonder, the transcendent awe you feel helps you see beyond your circumstances to God, who offers you hope that’s greater than your circumstances. Life can often get busy and stressful. However, if you allow life’s demands to prevent you from paying attention to wonder, you’ll be spiritually asleep – unaware of God’s purpose for you and unable to recognize God at work in your life. If you choose to intentionally pursue wonder, though, you’ll start noticing signs of the source of all wonder – God – everywhere. Everyday miracles will become apparent to you. As a result, you’ll naturally become excited about growing closer to God, which will wake you up spiritually.
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2. Approach prayer and meditation as opportunities rather than obligations.
Prayer (talking to God) and meditation (listening to God) can become just empty rituals when you’re spiritually asleep. However, those spiritual disciplines are meant to be awe-inspiring experiences. God has made it easy to communicate with him, and it’s an awesome privilege to be able to do so. If you take that privilege for granted, though, praying and mediating can seem like chores when you’re busy or distracted. You may think it’s okay to neglect those vital practices until an urgent situation compels you to finally communicate with God. Or, you may feel guilty that you haven’t communicated with God in a while and try to catch up occasionally, as if you’re only fulfilling a duty.
However, if you connect prayer and meditation to wonder – if you really expect to experience God’s presence with you and truly believe that God will communicate with you – you’ll recognize that the process opens up wondrous opportunities. Colossians 4:2 urges, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” Psalm 104:34 declares, “May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the LORD.” Start expecting to encounter God in wonderful ways whenever you pray or meditate. Then you’ll be motivated to do so on a regular basis, and you’ll be blessed as you do.
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3. Be willing to learn every day.
If you’re not a lifelong learner, you’re spiritually asleep. God proclaims in Isaiah 43:19: “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?...” Every day God gives you is full of opportunities to learn something new. In the process, he inspires you with wonder that can wake you up spiritually. Let go of attitudes that are blocking you from awe-inspiring learning. Rather than sticking to familiar routines, plan new experiences in your schedule. Instead of avoiding risks, move forward boldly to learn about whatever sparks your curiosity. Pursue learning actively every day however you can, such as by reading, engaging in conversations, traveling, and even searching for messages in your dreams. Allow yourself to wonder about every topic that interests you, and then let that wonder lead you to learn more. Try to live with a clear mind and an open heart. The more you learn, the more you’ll feel inspired to thank God for the wonderful world around you, which will help you wake up spiritually.
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4. Ask the Holy Spirit to renew your mind.
It’s vital to ask the Holy Spirit to renew your mind to be alert spiritually. “Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will,” Romans 12:2 urges. As the Holy Spirit works in your mind, you’ll be able to perceive the wonder of God’s work around you. You’ll also develop the “fruit of the Spirit” listed in Galatians 5:22-23: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Each one of those qualities can wake you up spiritually, clarifying your perspective and leading you to experience awe.
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5. Use your senses to the fullest.
Your physical senses – seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching – can be powerful tools for you to use to access spiritual wonder. As you do so, you can wake up to the reality of what God is doing around you. Spending time in nature, for example, gives you opportunities to use all your senses and wake up spiritually in the process. Your Creator’s qualities are displayed in creation. “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse,” Romans 1:20 declares.
You can watch a sunset and ponder the light of hope that Jesus offers the world. You can listen to music and let it evoke deep appreciation in you for the harmonious order of creation. You can smell the fragrance of a rose and feel awe for the sweetness of God’s love. You can taste one of your favorite foods and savor gratitude for God’s gift of it to you. You can pick up a rock on a nature walk and let it remind you of God’s rock-solid trustworthiness. The more you use your senses physically, the more you can wake up spiritually, if you look for how your senses can connect you with wonder.
God is constantly at work in your life. Pursuing wonder day by day will wake you up to that reality by training your mind to be alert spiritually. As you do so, you’ll be inspired by the awe you feel to stay awake so you don’t miss out on God’s best for you!
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