A Life out of Balance

Last week, I was shocked to learn that I have been imbalanced my whole life!

A podiatrist examined my feet and explained that they are not naturally straight. My ankles turn inwards, resulting in pressure being placed on the wrong parts of my feet when I’m walking. This condition explains recent soreness in my feet and possibly, the lower back trouble I have had for many years.

I would never have known anything was out of order if I had not been forced, through pain, to seek help.

The Paradox

Similarly, when we are experiencing internal pain that does not have an obvious or immediate source, it may be a signal that something in our lives needs attending to.

I was faced with a situation like this a couple of years ago, when I withdrew from most of my ministry and vocational responsibilities, exhausted.

The paradox, I realised, was that my devotional life was a key to my recovery. I desperately needed to reconnect in an intimate relationship with God.

But how could I, when instead of being life-giving, my devotional life had become just another task to accomplish, that I couldn’t face?

My spiritual life had become seriously out of balance—and I did not know how to bring it back to health.

8 Signs Your Devotional Life may be Caught in a Performance Trap.

Our devotional life is meant to be life giving.

Prayer and Bible study should never be a Christian duty—something we do to please God. We are already pleasing to Him.

Neither should it be about serving or pleasing people.

It is possible to know this (as I did), and yet still revert to a lifestyle of performance when under pressure.

So—what are some signs that your devotional life may be caught in a performance trap? See if you can identify with any of these:

1. Stuck in a Rut

You are bored with prayer and Bible study, doing the same things over and over and not sure how to break out

2. Condemnation

When you miss a devotional time, once or ongoing, you feel a nagging sense of guilt or condemnation

3. Failing to Meet a Standard

You generally feel as though you do not measure up as a Christian in your devotional life

4. Wrong Focus

You are concentrating more on doing the devotional activity than on having an intimate relationship with God

5. Not Life-Giving

Your devotional life is not recharging you spiritually, emotionally and mentally

6. Not Hearing

You haven’t sensed God speaking to you personally in your devotions for a long time, or at least not very often

7. Ministry focused

Your focus in prayer and study is primarily on the need to pray for other people or find Bible teaching for a ministry responsibility.

8. Stopping Altogether

Your devotional life—in particular, a set time you spend time with God in prayer and in Bible reading or study—is irregular or non-existent. You are not drawn to, or excited about it.

If you can identify with any of the above symptoms, I have good news for you! You CAN rediscover a regular time of prayer and Bible study that is life giving and fosters your intimate relationship with God.

The Danger of Christian Performance

Christian ‘performance’ is when we feel a need to do something a certain way in order to feel good about ourselves or to gain approval from God or others.

It invariably shows up in our devotional life, affecting our relationship with God.

I realise that performance may not be an issue that you face personally, even if you do relate to some of the above symptoms. You may simply be busy, or bored.

So over the next couple of weeks, I will give you a list of some practical things you can do to refresh your devotional life.

However, it is probable that presence of the above signs—like fruit—is symptomatic of a deeper issue other than just busyness or boredom.

That deeper problem may be an internal drive to perform.

And when performance is the underlying problem, the worst thing we can do is to try and fix our problem through creating another to do list!

The Hidden Roots of the Orphan Mindset

Deep down, hidden under the soil of our lives are root systems—beliefs that we live by.

This need to perform comes from an orphan mindset. [1]

We have an orphan mindset when:

  • We find it hard to believe that we have a Heavenly Father who loves us unconditionally
  • We are seeking approval of our Father God through performance—doing the right things
  • We fear or believe that He is disapproving of us when we do not measure up to a standard

Often this kind of deep-seated belief is related to the absence of a loving earthly father or father figure in our lives.

The Truth That Sets Us Free

With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can uncover the deep-rooted beliefs that have kept us from a love-relationship with God and replace them with the truth from the Bible.

Our Father loves us so much that He paid the highest price possible—the blood of His Son Jesus—to restore us to relationship with Him.

We can be certain of His love and His approval as sons and daughters—without doing anything to earn it.

‘God made him [Jesus] who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.’ (2 Cor 5:21)

Recently I was listening to a message by Leif Hetland. [2] He reminds us that when Jesus went to the cross, God exchanged Jesus’ righteousness—His perfect ‘score’ with God—for our imperfect one.

Jesus replaced our D+ report card with His A+ one. Now that is good news!

Before we do anything, we already have an A+ on our report card—and that includes our devotional life.

Amazing grace!

If you sense that what I have shared today may be an issue for you, I encourage you to pause, reflect on this glorious truth and pray about it. [3]

Our whole life can be lived out of this joyful experience of freedom.

[1] I first came across teaching about the orphan spirit when reading Jack Frost’s material in 2002. Since then, this vital teaching has become widespread in the church, bringing healing to many.

See the notes in the following post, where I share the links to Jack Frost’s original articles on this subject:

No Longer An Orphan: How I Discovered The Father’s Love

[2] This is from Leif Hetland’s message entitled ‘The Three Chairs.’ You can view this resource here (I notice it can also be found searching iTunes podcasts):


[3] I share a prayer to help break free from an orphan mindset here:

Breaking Free From An Orphan Mindset


© Helen Calder 2011 Enliven Blog – Enliven Ministries

In the David McCracken Ministries family

3 thoughts on “8 Signs Your Devotional Life may be Caught in a Performance Trap”

  1. malcolm Calder

    Written with honesty and truth. I am so encouraged reading this Helen. You are right, through the ebbs and flows of everyday life, we can realise where we are at with our devotional life and keep it rich. Thanks so much!!!

  2. This is so refreshing to read this and also see the honesty and vulnerability. It’s just geting me all excited again to walk closer with my Lord.

    1. Yes Shane I sense there is a fresh wind of renewal blowing across your life. And it always comes with a deeper revelation of who He is, doesn’t it?

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