Yesterday I was struggling most of the day to cultivate a quiet heart.
I had problems that needed attention for two client projects, and an unrelated disagreement with a friend over email involving a ministry we’re both part of.
Eventually I was able to “sit still” on the inside, but only after solving the two project problems, and after several hours of angst about the other.
Can you relate?
This morning in what I call my “devo time” with my coffee, Bible and devotional—currently Streams in the Desert—I read this:
“It is your business to learn how to be peaceful and safe in God in every situation.”
I knew it yesterday, but it was a struggle to do it. To command my soul—my mind, will and emotions—to sit still.
What a wonderful skill for us to learn—to cultivate a quiet heart. So in every situation we’re able to quickly still the voices in our head…the frustration or vexation or whatever emotion is fighting for control.
As I was reading today’s passage in Streams in the Desert, the words of Psalm 131 popped in my head. I like the way it’s said in the Complete Jewish Bible and The Message best:
“I keep myself calm and quiet, like a little child on its mother’s lap…” and “I’ve cultivated a quiet heart…”
I like those translations because of the assumption it’s not a one-time event, but a continual practice.
So what can we do to maintain that kind of stillness before God?
Recognize the unrest
This might seem obvious, but sometimes we’re in unrest for a good while before we even realize it! Recognize it, and begin the battle against it immediately.
Find something to be thankful about
Philippians 4:6 is one of my life verses. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving…” (NASB)
Example: Unexpected problems came up with these client projects. I’m thankful I have client projects! Not only that, in both cases, solving the problems meant I learned something new I can now apply to future projects.
Ask for help
Continuing with Philippians 4:6—“…let your requests be made known to God.” And also, let your requests be made known to those who can help you solve your problem.
After I spent time on the phone with the person who could walk me through the solution for each of the client issues, I was at peace. Next time, I’ll try to remember not to get into such fidgets to begin with, but to assume there’s someone who can help. I just need to find that person and ask.
Meet it head-on
In the instances of the project problems, the sooner I dug in to solve them, the better.
Letting unexpected problems throw us is both unrealistic and stupid! Unrealistic because we should never be surprised when problems surface. They’re bound to come. Stupid because there’s a process we can go through to solve them. We don’t need to let them push us into unrest.
Give it time
On the other hand, when the unrest is relational instead of project-based, we often need to give it time. One of my weaknesses is reacting in the moment instead of responding with wisdom. I’ve gotten myself into a lot of trouble because of it.
So my best strategy is to wait. Give myself time to settle down. Look at it from the other person’s perspective. Sleep on it. I can then be more rational in both my inner self and how I communicate outwardly. And definitely more at peace even if the issue hasn’t gone away.
In Catherine Marshall’s book Something More, she tells how she learned to ask:
“Lord, what is Your will for me in the midst of these circumstances?”
That simple question gives us the powerful ability to re-focus our attention off ourselves and onto what God’s doing. Once we stop long enough to ask, answers come swiftly:
- Quit griping…
- Sit still…
- In the case of project problems, look for solutions…
- In the case of relational problems, remember what fruit we want exhibited in us.
Even if we don’t have the answer right away, at least we have a starting place.
How are you doing at cultivating a quiet heart? Have you ever thought about it? What helps you?