Life is busy, and getting busier. We’re working longer hours, manage long commutes and increasingly have our work lives follow us home. And the frantic pace of life isn’t limited to work: everything, it seems, is demanding our attention and demanding it now.
This has a negative effect on our spiritual lives, because unlike your boss or that barrage of push notifications on your phone, God (usually) doesn’t get up in our faces demanding attention. No, our mad rush to constantly remain in the state of doing something typically means faith gets left on the back burner.
That should change. We can find spiritual growth in the act of slowing down our habits and patterns of thought. We may see “religion” as something we do on Sunday mornings. But by practicing the presence of God, we allow ourselves to be drawn into a deeper faith that will improve our lives and the lives of those around us. Let’s open our Bibles and see if we can find anything to help us in this.
“The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.” – Exodus 14:14
These are Moses’ words, reassuring the Israelites as they were pursued by an Egyptian army. Fleeing slavery and with no guarantee of success, they must have been quite frightened! Anxiety and manic energy go hand in hand, as though we can banish it simply by being more productive. But how often are we just spinning our wheels, doing nothing to address the cause of those anxious feelings? These words remind us that the promise of the Lord’s deliverance still holds today. Sometimes we need nothing else other than to be still to find it.
From the Psalms & Proverbs
“Anxiety weighs down the human heart, but a good word cheers it up.” – Proverbs 12:25
Has anyone ever brightened a bad day for you with a well-timed compliment or small show of kindness? Consider how little energy those small actions take compared to the effect they have. Even texting a friend or praising a stranger’s cool outfit can be an act of worship. When we do these things, we share God’s love in the world.
“Trouble and anguish have come upon me, but your commandments are my delight.” – Psalm 199:143
The psalms are more emotionally complex than they’re typically given credit for. Some of them swing wildly between total confidence in God to misery, despair, and yes, doubt.
Notice the two clauses in this verse. The Psalmist is not saying that his trouble and anguish don’t exist. He’s saying that aligning himself with God’s purpose brings delight even in dark times. We shouldn’t make the tone-deaf mistake of telling an upset friend not to worry about losing their job because it’s “part of God’s plan.” Rather, we should take this as an example of the power of following the Lord’s commands in times of distress. It re-centers us. Our actions are always under our control, even if little else is.
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30
In this passage Jesus is offering a lifeboat to those in stormy waters. Jesus promises rest in a restless world. We are yoked by many obligations in life – some necessary, and some that would be better discarded.
Following the way of Jesus is agreeing to take his yoke, one whose burden is light despite its liberating power. The next time you feel like a failure or just not enough, assess yourself by the standard of the Greatest Commandment. Loving God with all your strength and loving your neighbor as yourself is the most important benchmark, not your productivity level.