How can we develop a mind at peace? As we seek to hear from God, it is important that we learn how to calm the waves inside. After all, the apostle James warns us that when we are tossed back and forth we can’t receive the wisdom of God we so desperately need (James 1:5-8). But how can we experience rest in God when we live in such a tense and busy world? I make no claim of advanced standing – but here are a few practices I find helpful in the quest for peace.
Silence and rest
First, I believe I need to stop thinking of silence as the gap or space between things – as if silence is merely the absence of something. Instead, I want to think of silence as something in itself; an actual practice that can be chosen, appreciated, even planned for.
I used to consider silent prayer as a time when no one said anything out loud . . . but inwardly we poured out our lists to God. (Now I want to assure you that pouring out our hearts to God is a biblical, effective and healing part of prayer – but it is not silent.) The silence I am looking for is a quiet inside and out – a silence of speech, thought, and environment. Silence creates space for me to experience his presence and to stop long enough to listen for what he might say. That genuine contact with God refreshes my trust in him. It helps me come to a place of rest that can continue even after I re-enter a full schedule.
When I leave my time with God, I don’t want to re-enter life in a way that simply surrenders to the pressure around me. When I’m busy doing other things, I can still inwardly be at rest – a position of the spirit that comes from a heart that trusts God enough to wait for his working.
I used to be proud of my ability to multitask. Now I’m learning that it is far more peaceful to turn off the autopilot and pay attention to one thing at a time. I was surprised to discover that mindfulness actually makes me more efficient. Part of it is spiritual: As I slow down and more consciously depend on God, he works things out better than I could have myself. From a human standpoint, it also tends to make me more thorough, which means each task only has to be done once.
However, there is a much more important side effect. Mindfulness offers promise for reducing the number of thoughtless sins. How many times have I blurted out something and immediately regretted it? I hope that, as mindfulness and rest become more and more the habit of my life, I will become truly “slow to speak, quick to listen and slow to become angry” (James 1:19).
Here are some verses from one of David’s psalms. They illustrate a beautiful combination of rest, trust and petition. I pray you will experience more of these each day.
Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
my hope comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God;
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.
Psalm 62:5-8 TNIV