When to Pause a Religious Practice

By: Heidi Bradford

Yes, you read that right. There are times when pausing a religious practice will bring you closer to God than continuing that practice. Because religious practices are meant to be for our benefit, it’s good to recognize when they’re not serving the purpose they were meant to serve. One example of a good time to pause a religious practice is when we are sick. Outlined below are five questions to ask yourself when you are wondering if now might be a time that pausing a religious practice will keep you closer to God than continuing it.

Currently, I serve as an advisor to the youth at church. One Sunday, a few months ago, I had an interesting experience when we were reciting a common theme together. Part of the theme states, I cherish the gift of repentance and
seek to improve each day.” As soon as I said that part, my brain responded, “You do not seek to improve each day.”

In my head, I thought, “It’s true. I don’t.” A few years ago, this interaction with myself would leave me feeling bad about myself and I’d be uncomfortable when I heard that theme for a few months or possibly longer. Why? Because it caused me to think of myself as a hypocrite.

But I’ve come to recognize it differently. When a thought comes to my mind that is negative, I try to pause and question the thought. I even attempt to disprove it. In this case, I told myself something along these lines, “Interesting. I don’t feel like I am seeking to improve each day and maybe I’m not. Maybe that’s something I can work on. But maybe I am seeking to improve each day in seemingly insignificant ways. I try to be a good person every single day. And maybe just doing that every single day is actually a way of improvement.”

Let’s use this example of me feeling like a hypocrite while participating in class at church to apply five questions that can help us recognize when it may be a good time to pause a religious practice. (You can use one or more
questions at a time!)

Question one, “Am I feeling darker or more distant from God now than I was before?” I certainly was feeling darker when I thought, “I am not trying to improve each day.” It even led to the thought that I’m a hypocrite. Here I am saying one thing and doing another. But as you read above, I looked at the thought differently and questioned it and that led to the darkness being dispelled almost immediately. I needed a very short pause in that case.

Get more from life than you ever thought possible.

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