In solitude with God, the noise fades
I Googled “worry” and came up with more than a billion results. It seems, we have a lot to worry about and anxiety seems to be building. COVID-19, racial strife, job loss, deciding whether to send children back to school during a pandemic, and even murder hornets have us worrying constantly. If you haven’t heard of that last thing, well my friend, the hornets are just the icing on the cake that is 2020 so far.
Worry and anxiety are products of what is happening and the dangerous consequences are poor health, dissatisfaction, unhappiness, and lack of productivity. We are literally worrying ourselves to death.
I wish I could say I am immune. I should be after surviving numerous crises in my life and realizing that few were as bad as I had feared. I will never forget, as a young father of two children, reaching into my pocket and coming up with only two cents. On that day, Kathy and I didn’t have a dime in the bank nor any idea of how we could make it until payday. Later in the mail that day, I received an unexpected check for a class I taught parttime at the local high school. It was enough to get us to my next paycheck.
Ultimately, I had nothing to worry about.
But occasionally, I lapse into fretting over something. Most recently, concerns about the virus and the lasting impact it will have on our country, society, and Baptist Children’s Homes.
Questions drift through my mind. Will we come out of this by the end of the year, or will it linger into 2021? Or longer? Will the disease affect me and my family? Will we be able to cope? If the economy fails, how will people make a living?
You may have noticed a common thread in the above questions––there is little I can do about any of them besides worry. A friend of mine from my radio days in Charlotte would always ask, “A hundred years from now, what the heck difference will it make?”
I often remind myself, as long as we are doing what we know is right in our heart, God will do His part and take care of the rest.
Just because I choose a positive, optimistic outlook does not mean I do not recognize that life is hard and what people are grappling with is serious—these are hard days. But, I’m convinced that overcoming struggles gives us wisdom, knowledge, and strength. As we battle, it is best to acknowledge that most of the potential trouble we worry over will never come to pass.
One real antidote for worry is solitude. Solitude is the practiced, disciplined habit of withdrawing to pray, meditate on the good in our lives, and develop an appreciation for God’s work in this world. A person who cultivates solitude can be content in a football stadium filled with 10,000 screaming fans. Someone who insists on cramming his life with noise and empty activities can sit in the same stadium, and feel dreadfully alone.
During this pandemic, we are learning the importance of socially distancing, take a moment in this time of forced solitude to reflect on what we have been given and what we have to give others.
Solitude is a lost art. Many people feel so lonely that they do not want to consciously remove themselves from everyone. And during this time, there is so much noise, it’s hard to find quiet in one’s life. But experiencing solitude in a positive way can bring new personal insights. Michelangelo never would have painted the Sistine Chapel ceiling if he constantly abandoned the task to hangout with his buds. Because of his deafness, Thomas Edison mastered the light bulb working alone in his lab––creating hundreds of other inventions as well. Jesus formulated His famous Sermon on the Mount away from others during prayer and solitude.
If you use alone time to pursue meaningful disciplines, solitude can be like water to a budding flower. I first heard about solitude from Quaker writer Elton Trueblood who described almost going crazy when he first sat quietly for an hour. But in the last two minutes of that hour, God spoke to him softly and gave him a resolve and a calm that lasted the rest of his life.
Look around and you can see God at work. In the stillness, if you wait patiently, you will hear Him. Turn off the cell phone. Stop watching the news for a week. Log off Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter and go meet Him. It will be all you need during these noisy, challenging times––“Be still and know that I am God.”
My Thoughts is written by Michael C. Blackwell, BCH President/CEO