Better is a handful of quietness
than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind.
— Ecclesiastes 4:6
At the beginning of this period of social isolation, my wise preacher husband said in a Facebook Live session that this time of solitude and, for some, rest from work, had the potential to be very beneficial to our spiritual lives — if we would let it. If we would choose to spend time in quietness with God.
Now that we are maybe seven or eight weeks into the quarantine — how have you done?
I wish I could say that I have been super diligent and disciplined in this way, but the truth is that I’ve had ups and downs. I have learned that a few seemingly small decisions can propel my days toward quietness and peace in God, or toward anxiety and worry. Here are some of them:
1 — Did I prioritize time with God today? Greg Mckeown explained in this book that the word “priorities” used to be used only in the singular — “priority.” Because only one thing can be first. Is time with God my first priority? My priority is evident not in my intentions but in my actions. Did I choose God over the many other things nagging at me for my time and attention today? When I do, I find quietness. I’m better able to choose not to worry and get upset about things, and I’m generally a more pleasant person for my family to be around. When I don’t, well, the opposite is true.
2 — How much time did I spend on my devices? When I start feeling “yucky,” like I’m wasting my time or failing to attend to my kids or husband, often it’s because I’ve allowed a shiny, rectangular device to capture my attention. I swap better things for unproductive time on my phone or computer. Technology certainly can be useful for good (this is a blog post I’m writing after all), but when it begins to steal my quietness, I have to make some changes — “pluck out the eye” that’s causing me to stumble, whatever that may be, or take a technology Sabbath of some sort. After all, Ephesians 5:15-16 says:
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.
(For more on this topic of technology from a Christian perspective, I highly recommend this book.)
3 — Did I go outside today? This may seem a bit trivial, but creation truly has a way of bringing our mind back to the One who created it. We walk outside of our houses and away from our to-do lists and are reminded of the greater spiritual reality — the One who created all things and holds all things together (Col. 1:16-17). Sometimes when I’m feeling disquieted, all I need to do is step out onto my porch.
4 — Did I practice Philippians 4:8? Here Paul says:
Finally, brothers and sisters,
whatever is true,
whatever is noble,
whatever is right,
whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely,
whatever is admirable—
if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—
think about such things.
Sometimes when I’m feeling disquieted in my soul, it’s because I’m focusing my attention only on that first “whatever” — whatever is true. I want to find out what is true, and what with so many opinions, this is an elusive task. Depending on the topic at hand, the truth can be messy and complicated. I spend too much time going down endless rabbit holes. Sometimes the truth (or at least what we think is true) can induce a lot of anxiety. Of course there are times we need to know the truth about certain things, but the easy accessibility of information these days can trick us into thinking we have to know every scrap of truth, making it easy for us to become an overwhelmed ball of anxiety (speaking from experience). So we must make sure we are seeking all the things on this list: whatever is true AND noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. If it’s true but dishonorable, evil, impure, ugly, abominable, terrible, or disgraceful, then it doesn’t qualify as something God wants me dwelling on.
Note that there is one thing that will always be true, right, pure, excellent, praiseworthy, etc. — God’s Word. Any time we spend meditating on God’s Word is time that will never be wasted, time that will bring us closer to our Maker, the only One who can quiet our souls.
Today, what are your hands full of — quietness, or anxious striving after wind?
If you need to make some changes, make them. Our souls are worth it.
Header photo credit: Carolyn V via Unsplash