“For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” But you were unwilling, and you said, “No! We will flee upon horses”; therefore you shall flee way; and “We will ride upon swift steeds”; therefore your pursuers shall be swift.” (Isaiah 30:14 ESV).
We live in such an instant, active world, with so much stimulation and challenge for every sense all around us – emails, texting, the internet on one’s phone and one’s computer, music, the radio and TV, cars and trains and buses all filled with people on the move going somewhere, shops and busy streets and shopping centres, work pressures, pressures to be places on time, pressures to be a good friend, a good employee, a good boss, a good parent, a good daughter or son, a good spouse, pressure to wear the latest clothes, to drive a nice car, to live in a good house, to own the latest gadgets, to climb the career ladder, to a be a good citizen, to contribute to those in need, to exercise and eat healthily and so many more things than I can list in one short blog post. None of these things are bad in themselves (and most are actually quite good), but they can feel unceasing.
Which makes me wonder … when was the last time you just let yourself be? When was the last time you allowed quietness to be a part of your day? When was the last time you stopped talking to God and started listening instead?
It’s been a couple of weeks since I handed in my PhD thesis. It was an awesome day. A day of rejoicing and of phoning and texting various people to tell them how happy I was (and that was only in the first half hour after submitting). And then on the following Monday a different kind of reality took over and I moved from being someone who was finishing off a PhD thesis and applying for the odd job that looked good to someone who was spending every day looking for jobs, applying for jobs, sending my CV to recruitment agencies and signing up with recruitment agencies. The few times that I’ve done temp work in the past I’ve got work pretty fast and I went into this post-PhD period thinking this time would be the same. And in many ways it is – it has only been a couple of weeks since I handed in my thesis and I’ve got a few possibilities I’m waiting to hear back about. But I’m very aware of each day that passes without significant progress and that makes time seem to go slowly. A couple of weeks has seemed like a month. Then towards the end of last week I realised that with each slowly-passing day God is teaching me something. It is a lesson in trust, in waiting and in cultivating quietness. I realised that it had been a long time since I’d actually sat down to listen to God without a fixed end-time in mind, rather than just talk and quickly read my Bible because there’s lots to do and I need to get on. Although it is a challenge to sit and be still, to cultivate quietness, and to make time and space to listen to God, it is balm for my soul, it restores and encourages me, and gives me strength to keep going. It reminds me how important it is to cultivate times of quietness in my life – as the verse above says, strength is found “in quietness and trust”.