When you retreat to a quiet place, it’s amazing how loud everything becomes upon re-entry.
We spent last week in the mountains, nestled in a cabin just above the treetops. Every morning the sun would peek through the blinds, gently nudging me awake. With a cup of coffee in hand, I would snuggle myself into a sweatshirt and pull up a chair to the edge of the pine deck. The sun would rise over smokey ridges and rows of mountain peaks as I stared out into a silent world. The chirping of crickets and rustling of bears in the woods were the only sounds vying for my attention. Crisp, cool air filled my lungs with every breath.
Peace and quiet. Solitude at its finest.
Originally, I had planned to use that “free time” to get stuff done and catch up on the laundry list running in my head. I was tempted to use that quiet space as a chance to get ahead of the rat race so I could go home less stressed.
I thought getting stuff done would give me more peace. But I was wrong.
In fact, I discovered just the opposite is true.
The Lie We Believe
We believe the lie that peace is a reward for our hard work. If we make more money, we can finally afford that vacation or break we need from life (peace). Or if we just decrease the amount of items on our to-do list, it will provide the free time we long for and lower our stress level (peace). But in reality, more money leads to more stress and responsibilities and less time for what matters. Working harder on our to-do list just creates space for more additional items. This becomes an endless cycle of stress and fatigue that never really gives us what we want most.
The truth is that peace is available right now. Obtaining it doesn’t require more work. It requires rest.
As I sat on that deck surrounded by creation and majesty, God invited my spirit to be still. To stop. He wasn’t asking me to do anything. He just wanted me to be all there.
“Come and see what the Lord has done…Cease striving and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:8, 10
So I resisted the temptation to do and chose instead to just be. I didn’t write. I didn’t talk. I didn’t work. I just sat, read and listened.
And something remarkable happened.
When I chose being over doing, I experienced more peace that week than I had in a long time. More peace than any to-do list ever provided or all the money in the world ever made.
You don’t have to take a vacation to a remote place to have peace. And you don’t need less on your list to have rest. If Jesus is the Prince of Peace, then He is the only One who can give you what you need.
Want Peace? Do This
Peace is a fruit of the Spirit, not the result of our own works. It is something that is given and grown within us over time as we spend intentional time with the One who is our peace.
But so often we stay busy. We jam pack our schedules full of deadlines and commitments all the while expecting to have the life-changing, soul transforming moments that can only come from stillness. You can’t be still and move at the same time. 5 minute pop prayers and devos will not develop the kind of intimate, life-changing relationship I need. I must be still and present long enough to hear God speak. And when God speaks, my life changes.
Being still does not happen naturally. It’s a choice we make daily. It takes practice.
In order to be still, I need time for my heart and mind to decompress. I need space to withdraw from the daily distractions of life. Creating the space and time necessary to be still requires action on my part. I have to choose to resist the temptation to do and allow myself to be. Even Jesus got up early and withdrew from the crowds in order to spend solitude time with His Father (Luke 5:15-16).
When was the last time you stopped doing everything? Or took a break? Is the stuff you’re cramming into your day really changing you for the better?
When was the last time you seized the moment, not for ambition, but for enjoyment?
Your to-do list may accomplish many things, but it cannot provide you peace. Real peace can only come from spending time with the One who encompasses all peace. And real transformation happens when we are still enough to listen, humble enough to hear, and courageous enough to change.