Have you ever noticed how ambivalent we can be even if we are passionate and have strong opinions or beliefs about so many things? There seems to be an inner restlessness within us that has been growing in recent months and years. Maybe it’s because we thought we had life figured out on some level and were moving along a path we felt pretty certain about and then discovered life was far more unpredictable than we expected it to be.
We knew people who lost a job or had an unexpected diagnosis. We knew there were wars and famines in various places around the world as well as all manner of natural disasters that tore lives, homes, and the earth apart with a destructive force that could not be tamed. We knew there had been economic upheavals and catastrophes in the world in the past and heard grandparents or great grandparents talk about such times. Mentally we knew any of these were possible, but we largely went about our routines feeling safe and staying busy.
We said we liked to get away from our crazy schedules and all the demands on our time and then if we did, we filled it up with the noise of the computers, smartphones, and other devices we brought along with us. Sounds upside down, doesn’t it?
Is it possible we were so busy doing “our” thing that we didn’t stop long enough to see where we are in the story of our lives or recognize it is connected to an even larger story? Perhaps all this time while we were busy doing the next thing and filling up our calendars we forgot to pause and consider more than next month’s calendar.
We had the locked down malaise of the pandemic, but how did we use those days, weeks, and months alone? Often the hours were spent in anxiety and fear as the news kept us living with continuous uncertainty and our usual support systems weren’t available.
“An inner restlessness grows within us when we refuse to get alone and examine our own hearts, including our motives.”Chuck Swindoll
Swindoll’s words get at the challenge we don’t talk about out loud. There is something about being alone and examining our hearts that can terrify us and perhaps that is why solitary confinement in a prison setting is so difficult.
“We can change. People say we can’t, but we do when the stakes or the pain is high enough. And when we do, life can change. It offers more of itself when we agree to give up our busyness.”Anne Lamott
One value of giving up busyness and getting alone to examine our hearts is the discovery of where we are in the larger story and what is influencing us moment by moment and especially what is influencing our spiritual lives. Are we living based on truth or has the world crept in when we weren’t paying attention? Have we forgotten that the Bible has told us time and again that life on the earth would become more and more like we see it now?
Storm clouds are getting darker on the horizon, but if we focus on them without the truth of where this story is taking us, we can get lost and lose hope instead of anticipating what we have been told.
“As our lives begin to pick up debris that accompanies a lot of activities and involvements, we can train ourselves to go right on, to stay active, to be busy in the Lord’s work. Unless we discipline ourselves to pull back, to get alone for the hard work of self-examination in times of solitude, serenity will remain only a distant dream. How busy we can become…and, as a result, how empty! We mouth words, but they mean nothing. We find ourselves trafficking in unlived truths. We fake spirituality.”Chuck Swindoll
Yes, there have been difficult times before, but if we are awake difficulties of all kinds are coming faster and lasting longer than at any time in history. When the disciples of Christ were walking with Him, we saw that over and over again He called them aside to rest and take in the truth and hope of what God could give. I think He would have us not forget to take such time now in ways that we may not have done when we were isolated during the height of the pandemic when it first began. If we would do that, I think we would find an oasis amid the restlessness that would restore our soul.
It’s time to be sober-minded while overflowing with hope and grounded in assurance Christ wants to give us if we will only pull aside and listen.
“How easy to fall prey to meaningless talk, cliche’ ridden responses, and mindless activities! It was never meant to be that way, but, more often than not, that’s the way it is. To break the habit solitude is required. The hard work of self-examination on a recurring basis is absolutely essential.”Chuck Swindoll
It’s time to be awake, aware, and alert. This is not the time for ambivalence. Solitude can push back the lies the enemy of our souls would have us believe and help strike a dagger into the devices he uses too effectively to create fear. You see the signs of the times and so does the enemy. He’s desperate, but if we are in Christ we need not be.