searching for solace.

I recently traveled to Iceland and absolutely loved every aspect of my trip; however, my favorite part of the trip actually eluded me while I was there. It wasn’t until after I returned to the United States that I realized what I had loved so much. Iceland was quiet. Not an eerie quiet, but a tranquil quiet. As we went from village to village, life seemed unhurried. In fact, my least favorite places were the most popular tourist spots, because they shattered my romanticized views of Iceland.

We live in a noisy world. Literally and figuratively. If a store is not pulsating with music, its echoing the screams of a child who can’t have his way or a parent who can’t control her child. At a stoplight, cars reverberate with music pumping from the speakers of a single car nearby; and if cars don’t accelerate quickly enough after the light turns green, a lengthy horn is sure to alert everyone within a square mile. Beyond that, we are bombarded by advertisements on billboards, buses, and benches. Commercials are played relentlessly in every mobile application until we are desperate to upgrade to a commercial-free premium membership. Our mailboxes are overflowing with ads and coupons and credit card offers. Furthermore, our social media is flooded with its own ads, everyone’s opinion about everything, and pictures of your friends and your friend’s friends and your friend’s friend’s friends and your friend’s friend’s friend’s food.

It’s exhausting to manage and filter and discern, but it’s the world we live in.

So how can we find solace?

1. Turn off the digital noise. 

While we were in Iceland, we had no reception. We couldn’t receive texts or phone calls or notifications of any sort. I’m sure I’m in the minority here, but for me, it was glorious! We talked to people face to face. We used physical maps. We enjoyed the world around us.

I can see the benefits of social media; however, I think the majority of people who have social media are not utilizing those benefits. Because of such neglect, social media can become a center for pride or discouragement or distraction. Many use social media as a platform to promote themselves or to find affirmation. Those who through comparison cannot live up to other’s portrayals of perfection find themselves discouraged. Others mindlessly scroll and post and click and squander time that could be much better spent.

While I think there are many compelling arguments against social media (another day, another post), I am not necessarily suggesting we delete all our accounts. What I am suggesting is that we learn to function without them. Because even though we may think we couldn’t possibly live without the connections or information that social media provides, we can. In fact, we may even learn that without social media we can build stronger connections. We are constrained to truly communicate and interact and relate to the people that God has placed in our lives. Furthermore, we may learn to discern what information (given and received) is indeed valuable. We may find that we feel less compelled to share our clever opinions on trending topics and more inclined to develop our beliefs in timeless truths.

2. Turn away from mind-numbing pursuits. 

Six-hour plane rides may be torture for some, but for the reader, it’s the perfect time to finish a book or two. In addition to ample time for reading as we drove around the country, Iceland was also a great place for exploring and hiking and learning. We explored lava fields, found abandoned villages, hiked waterfalls, and learned about the culture (I feel like an expert on Icelandic economy, volcanoes, and the Huldufólk). We even learned the language. Just kidding. It’s one of the hardest languages to learn and almost everyone there speaks English. But I can say “Halló” really well.

In the book Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman argues that television has instilled within our culture a desperate need to be endlessly entertained; therefore every aspect of American culture becomes a form of show business to keep the masses interested. If it can’t captivate and maintain the public’s interest then it is or becomes irrelevant. While I enjoy a good television show, movie, podcast, soundtrack, or radio station, I know that there are times when I must turn away from these things to contemplate, read, or study. These practices often take more effort but can be far more rewarding.

In Deep Work, Cal Newport writes, “Efforts to deepen your focus will struggle if you don’t simultaneously wean your mind from a dependence on distraction.” We are a generation that finds it difficult to pursue a task if it requires extra effort. So many prefer to watch the movie rather than read the book. Others read only what can be read in short periods of time, and even then, they prefer to scan the headings and bold print assuming that will give them the gist of the piece. It takes work to get through classic novels and non-fiction, but the work truly is rewarding.

Beyond reading, work towards some goal in some area of your life. If you are in school, push yourself to your limits. Study until you could teach the material yourself. If you have a hobby, develop your skills. Become a better athlete, artist, or alliterator. If you run, build your distance or improve your time. If you write, write (because for me, that’s the hardest part about writing). Whatever your interests are, keep improving. Don’t give up because you don’t like the results. Don’t give up because someone can do it better than you can. We have to get better at getting better. We have to develop stick-to-itiveness (why, yes, I have been waiting my whole life to use that word).

3. Turn to God.

Iceland allowed me to see God in a new way. I experienced His creativity, His compassion, His closeness. It reminded me that no matter what we do or where we go, God has something that He wants to show us. Turning off the the digital noise and away from mind-numbing pursuits will only accomplish so much if we do not use some of that time to turn to God.

In order to find true solace, we must find rest in Him. Matthew 11:28-29 says, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” God never intended for us to trudge through life on our own. He calls us to a better way. In John 10:10, Jesus says, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” Life will not be without burdens, without struggle. But we have access to supernatural strength that carries those burdens and endures those struggles. Paul writes, “And he [Jesus] said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

In order to find true solace, we must find our identity in Him. If we seek to be defined by our status, wealth, or beauty, we seek to be defined by something that will fade away. However, if we claim the truth that we are “complete in Him” (Colossians 2:10), pursuits of temporary pleasure or affirmation are displace by the pursuit to serve others and ultimately glorify God. “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” (Colossians 3:2) Only God can fulfill the deepest longings of our hearts. As Augustine so beautifully reminds us: “Thou madest us for Thyself, and our heart is restless, until it repose in Thee.”

___

Few of us will ever live in places of timeless tranquility. However, to find solace, we must discern what noise we allow into our lives; and when the noise is beyond our control, we must access that inner peace that is only found in Christ alone.

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7)

 

 

Advertisements

my goings are of the Lord

I am amazed by God.

“For his eyes are upon the ways of man, and he seeth all his goings.” Job 34:21

“He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.” Psalm 40:2

“For the ways of man are before the eyes of the LORD, and he pondereth all his goings.” Proverbs 5:21

“Man’s goings are of the Lord; how can a man understand his own way?” Proverbs 20:24

God has a plan for each and every human being on this planet. God is not only working in my life, but orchestrating the lives of everyone on this planet – and that is not from one moment to the next either… He has orchestrated it from beginning to end!

Within such an intricate and massive conglomeration, He has some who willingly submit to His plan for them, while others outright defy it. They choose their own way because they think their way is better, which is absurd, but they don’t know! They don’t know that God has a specific plan for them. They don’t know God! At least not truly, for if they did, surely they would submit their petty desires to the One Who wants only the best for each and every individual.

He loves every person within the complex network of humanity, and for those who choose His way, everything works out quite perfectly.  And for those who choose to reject His way, well, He still works things out perfectly! Tragically, they simply lose the blessings that God had in store for them. He works through and with all the choices that are made by BILLIONS of people!

 

I am in awe.

I cannot understand my own way, but I know the One Who has planned it!

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” Isaiah 26:3

becoming a cheerful giver

“God loveth a cheerful giver.”

I was reading 2 Corinthians 9, and when I got to this verse, I stopped. Usually, I quickly skim by it with a mindset of Yeah, yeah, give my tithes and offerings with a willing, happy heart. No problem! But today I really thought about the verse and decided to apply it on a deeper level.

First of all, I grew up in a Christian home, so giving money to the work of the Lord has never been a struggle. If my parents gave me a dollar, then I gave a dime to Jesus. If grandma sent me ten dollars for my birthday, one dollar went into the offering plate. I didn’t do it because I was forced and I never wondered why God wanted my money. I just knew that giving was another way of showing my love for God and trusting that He would provide for all my needs. And He does–for every need and even for wants.

Maybe you didn’t grow up as I did. Maybe giving is a struggle for you. If so, please let me tell you that it is worth it. First of all, knowing you had a part in something great – the work of the Lord – I have always seen it as such a privilege. Secondly, just proving God’s faithfulness is an awesome experience. When you give by faith and see the Lord provide in ways you did not expect, He becomes so real!

Also, I realized that there is more of me to give then just of my finances. I struggle more with giving when it comes to my time and my talents. I selfishly schedule my time. I have time for work, church, devotions, and other ministry. I want time to read, to play the piano, to write, to run, to cook, to play games, and to spend time with friends, but anything outside of my regular schedule I sometimes consider unwelcome.  When it comes to my talents, I tend to hide them for fear they aren’t good enough. I doubt whether God could really use my talents for His purposes when there are so many others who could do it better.

But I realized my perspective on all of these things–my time, my treasures, my talents–was completely wrong! None of it is mine! It is His time, His treasures, and His talents! If I will consistently adjust my perspective to see that all these things are not my own, I will have no problem giving of them with a cheerful heart! If the Lord wants me to give of the time He has given me, I can happily give of it since it was never mine to begin with. And if the Lord wants me to use or even develop my talents for His purposes and glory, I will have no problem in doing so because I realize that the Lord has blessed me with the ability to do those things.

Now I am far from perfect, and there will be times when I will once again become selfish. But the prayer for my life is that the Lord will remind me that nothing is my own, it is His, and I am blessed! And when reminded, I will remember to give cheerfully!

 

first things first.

“When I have learnt to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now. In so far as I learn to love my earthly dearest at the expense of God and instead of God, I shall be moving towards the state in which I shall not love my earthly dearest at all. When first things are put first, second things are not suppressed but increased.” ~ C.S. Lewis

those who trust Him wholly, find Him wholly true

from the moment that i wake up to the moment i pillow my head, i am constantly exercising levels of trust. i trust that my alarm clock will go off at the set time. i trust the electricity will work when i turn the lights on and plug in my blow dryer. i trust that neither my coffee nor my cereal have been poisoned. i trust that when i use my phone, my wireless service will work, and when i check the weather, i trust that it will be fairly accurate so that i may dress appropriately. i could go on with my entire day in which nearly every moment i place my trust in mankind and the things it has fabricated; however, that would be entirely too exhaustive, so i digress…

my point is, we – often without question – place blind trust in things and in faulty human beings, but when it comes to trusting God in heaven, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, we tend to not as willingly place our trust in His design.

of this, i am sure. no man or woman who has ever wholly trusted the Lord – that means in every facet of his life – has ever regretted doing so. the Word of God is filled with promises ensuring those that trust Him will see His guidance and blessings.

Proverbs 3:5-6 ~ Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.

Psalm 33:21 ~ For our heart shall rejoice in Him because we have trusted in His holy name.

Isaiah 26:4 ~ Trust ye in the Lord for ever: for the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength:

Nahum 1:7 ~ The Lord is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and He knoweth them that trust in Him.

Psalm 37:5 ~ Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass.

there are many more verses i could have included, but that would make for a lengthy post. i do want to also say that just because you live a life completely trusting in Him does not mean you will live a life free of pain or hurt. i think life would not really be life if we didn’t endure some heartache; you can be more grateful in the “good” times because you have endured the hard times. but trusting in Him, however, does guarantee strength and grace to get through those tough times.

not only is the Bible filled with hundreds of verses about the promises given to those who trust Him, but it is also filled with human examples. you can read the whole life story of Job – a man who had everything one day and nothing the next. he lost his financial resources, his family, his health, even his friends; and yet you can read Job 23:10 where he says, “But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.“and do you know what happens in the end of the story? i’ll tell you what the Bible says, “…also the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before… So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning…” wow! and then of course you can read the entire “hall of faith” in Hebrews 11… there is just so much, i don’t see how we could not trust Him.

so read His Word, see His promises, and prove God in your own life!