pause

Do you ever feel as if you are living life on fast-forward? Do you ever feel as if you are constantly bouncing from one project to the next, one message to the next, one app to the next, one meeting to the next?

In our fast-paced world we tend to value speed, intensity, and productivity. And recently I’ve tried to rethink how I can be more effective and productive in the various spheres of my life: husband, father, pastor, writer, professor, friend, disciple-maker. While away last week with my family, I received a reminder from the Lord about what’s truly important in life.

Here are the three lessons I believe the Lord was teaching me from my time away.

  1. Pause. Close your eyes. Take a nap. Go away. Guess what? The world will go on just fine when you are on pause. Yes, there are things God has assigned for you to do. Yes, you have a responsibility to be productive and faithful for the glory of God. But thank heavens you and I are not irreplaceable to God’s plans of redemption and salvation in the world. God gave us the gift of Sabbath (day of rest) to remind us of the importance of pausing and resting. When we pause and rest, we give ourselves the opportunity to exercise our trust muscles that the Lord has everything handled in life.
  2. Pray. I am naturally analytical and a people pleaser. It is my tendency to do. Maybe you’re like me. Or maybe you’re very different. However you and I are designed, we often find it easier to do than to pray. Unfortunately, we feel as if prayer is passive when we ought to be active. The opposite is true. To pray is to actively exhibit trust in God who is able to do far more than we can do.
  3. Pay Attention. In my quiet time yesterday, I read from Acts 20. When talking to the elders and leaders of the Ephesian church, Paul said this, “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). You and I are responsible for our spiritual lives. When we get distracted from the importance of our walk with God, we have a tendency to lose sight of what matters most. Pastors are responsible to pay attention to their own spiritual lives as well as those they shepherd. This verse reminds us that we should take spiritual inventory of how we are doing in our walk with Christ.

So this week, make time for these spiritual disciplines.

Pause. Make time in your day to rest. Take a deep breath or a walk. Go for a hike or a swim. Get away from the hustle and bustle, and remember what is important.

Pray. Make time time in your day to pray and to think. Don’t go another minute without bringing your burden to the Lord. Talk to God. Listen to him speak through his Word. Trust him to handle that situation that’s bigger than you.

Pay Attention. Make time in your day to inventory your spiritual life. Are there sins you need to confess? Habits you need to break or add? Relationships you need restored? Be attentive to yourself and those around you.

Turn these actions into spiritual habits.

You are your habits.

So what are you doing regularly? What would your spouse, kids, and friends say about your habits and practices? Would they say you know how to pause, to pray, and to pay attention? Or would they have to say that you are bustling from one thing to the next constantly frazzled by the busyness of life?

Photo by Claudio Schwarz on Unsplash

I have felt more emotions in the last week than at any other time in my life. The speed with which the world has shifted regarding the COVID-19 pandemic is mind-boggling.

I have felt fear, frustration, and exhaustion. Almost all of the time during the past week, I’ve felt overwhelmed. Rarely is anyone prepared for life to change so fast for so many with innumerable ramifications. And this is only the first true week (of what will be many more) of response and recovery.

I don’t share this for your pity, because I know that I’m not alone. I share simply out of honesty. It does no good for any of us to put on a mask or pretend to be strong when we are struggling.

Situations like we are facing today remind us how truly inadequate we are. One thing that has been immensely helpful for me in the last week or so has been my journal. I can write my prayers and thoughts before God and know that he hears.

Let me share with you 5 personal responses I wrote down in my journal the other day. They’ve helped me, and I hope they might help you process what we’re going through.

  1. Prioritize my information sources. If you’re anything like me, you’ve been reading and watching the news all the time trying to figure out what’s changing next. If we’re not careful though, our attentiveness to the news will lead to discouragement or worse. I’m not suggesting that you ignore the news either. Rather, make sure that you prioritize the timeless over the temporal. Read God’s Word. Let the assurances and promises and hope of the Bible give you calmness and confidence.
  2. Embrace my lifestyle changes as opportunities. There are no shortages of challenges, frustrations, and discouragements during these unprecedented days. There is much we cannot do, and there are places we cannot go. Instead of looking at all the negatives, embrace the changes as opportunities. We have the opportunity to pause, rest, pray, listen, and slow down. Spend time with your family. Enjoy a game together. Take a walk or a hike. Have long conversations. Read a book. Spend time with God. These moments of pause in the swirl of chaos are a blessing to embrace as much as they are a difficulty to manage.
  3. Accept that I cannot change reality. Read the next statement out loud, “I am not in control.” If the last week does nothing else, it should scream to us that we are not in control. Our busyness, bustling, and constant activity are often attempts at trying to control everything in our lives. We solve this and fix that and put out this fire. Well, this thing we are dealing with his bigger than me, than you, and yes, even bigger than all of us. We should accept our dose of humility and recognize that we are not in control. Only God is in control. To him we must turn.
  4. Pursue the presence of God. Our limitations drive us to One who is unlimited. More than ever before in my life, I realize that I need God. In the story where Jesus walked on water (John 6; Matthew 14), the disciples were rowing hard in the storm only to be frightened at the sight of Jesus walking on the water. Notice this, the disciples were in the storm watching Jesus walk on water because that’s where Jesus had sent them. They were obedient, and they were still afraid. Notice what happened next, “Jesus came to them.” Jesus will be with you in your fears. He will be with you today. Seek him. “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (James 4:8). If we’re going to take seriously the message to wash our hands, we should take serious the reminder to draw near to God. You need him. Pursue him, and he will find you.
  5. Look ahead to the real future. At least for me, part of my worries come from wondering what will happen after we get through this wave. What’s on the other side? What will the socioeconomic impact be? How many will get sick? Will anyone I know and serve become a fatality? Dreading the future is a dangerous worry. But we need to look past COVID-19, past the response, past flattening the curve, past social distancing, past the socioeconomic consequences, past all these things. We need to look to the eternal future. As followers of Jesus, looking to eternity will help us overcome fear in the present. It will also remind us the desperate importance to spread the good news of Jesus to sinners who need repentance. May God help us point people to eternity.

“So we do not lose heart,” Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:16. God is with us through it all. I would love to read your feedback at how God is strengthening you during these days. Would you share how God is encouraging you with me? You can leave a comment below. Or you can comment on the social media platform that led you to this post.