By: Jenni Walker
“The devil has made it his business to monopolize on three elements: noise, hurry, crowds. He will not allow quietness.” (Elisabeth Elliot)
“But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in Your hand. Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the Lord.” (Psalm 31:14–15a, 24)
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A wholehearted woman of God cannot have a strong, encouraged heart without being intentional with the time given to her each day. It has everything to do with focusing the eyes of our hearts on Jesus, which requires moment-by-moment wisdom and joyful perseverance (Hebrews 12:1-2). We looked the last few weeks at how we must train the heart to continually be oriented toward our Lord in all things.
Today we will explore ways that can help us to receive holy encouragement for our hearts. All of them require us to “take the time,” but some may need to be scheduled intentionally into the day, while others can happen in lieu of, or simultaneously with, something else. Jesus Himself taught and modeled (see Matthew 14) these two specific approaches to time:
1) In-the-moment, timely responses in which we wisely receive strength for our hearts.
2) Set-aside time to receive refreshing, encouragement, and to let God work in our hearts as we respond to His voice of truth.
As humans, we can become tired, flustered, overwhelmed, disheartened, and so much more. And yet, as followers of Christ, we are invited to experience holy encouragement from God Himself. This kind of encouragement often comes in quiet yet intentional ways. Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, a show that our family watches most days together, reminded me of this recently. I came across this quote with Fred Rogers’ observations about the need for quiet in our lives both externally and in our souls:
“There’s noise everywhere. There are some places we can’t even escape it…It’s so tempting for some people to turn on the television set or the radio when they first walk into a room or get in the car… to fill any space with noise. I wonder what some people are afraid might happen in the silence. Some of us must have forgotten how nourishing silence can be. That kind of solitude goes by many names. It may be called ‘meditation’ or ‘deep relaxation,’ ‘quiet time’ or ‘downtime.’ Whatever it’s called, it’s a time away from outside stimulation, during which inner turbulence can settle…” (Life’s Journeys According to Mister Rogers: Things to Remember Along the Way)
As women of God, we are each called to beauty, strength, wisdom, and, yes, quietness. 1 Peter 3:4 describes that the focus should be on that “of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” In doing so intentionally, we will find strengthened, quiet souls even when the world around us is not-so-quiet. While you read and reflect on the following ways to “take the time” to keep an encouraged heart, consider how this can help you cultivate the strength of a quiet heart.
1) TIME TO READ
It was one paragraph in an entire U.S. history social studies book. But my classroom of fifth graders and I voraciously discussed it each year for at least an entire class period. It was a paragraph describing the life of Lowell Mill Girls who worked in factories in the mid-1800’s. Did it describe them working to make money for their families? Yes. Did it explain the difficult working conditions? A little. But what struck my fifth grade scholars the most (and me!) was what these young women did at the end of their often fourteen hour work days: They read avidly, wrote poetry, attended academic lectures, held intellectual discussions of what they were reading, and even published their own writings in “The Lowell Offering.”
In addition to reading your Bible and a devotional, find something to read, and then make it happen! Plan an intentional time to read, or if your schedule varies based on, for example, the needs of children or elderly family members, treat it like a tray of chocolate samplers by grabbing a few moments here and there like the Lowell Mill Girls during and after their work day. Read a poem with a cup of coffee on the back step for a moment, an illustrated children’s book from the library that your children passed over, an actual recipe book without pictures in it, a nonfiction biography, informational text about a topic you have wanted to explore, or that coffee table book you own but have not really looked at with rich photos of artwork, national parks, specific historical events, or ways of life in other cultures. Romans 12:11 tells us to not be “lagging in diligence” but to be “fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.” Taking time to read is a beautiful, God-honoring way to both cultivate a quietly encouraged soul and keep a fervent spirit!
2) TIME TO THINK
“The devil has made it his business to monopolize on three elements: noise, hurry, crowds. He will not allow quietness.” (Elisabeth Elliot) Do you ever feel as though you barely have time to even think? If we allow it, the pace of life can become so hurried and hectic that when we have a moment of down time, we immediately turn to something that distracts us from the stress, whether scrolling through Instagram, turning on Netflix, or turning on the radio as we search for that perfect song that will make us feel better.
Is God Lord of your thoughts? Do you give Him mental space for Him to guide you with wisdom and understanding? Ladies, we have to take time to reflect, to think, to pray, to ask for, and then to receive, wisdom from the Holy Spirit! Some of the most powerful prayers and creative solutions happen when we are intentional to give ourselves time to ponder situations, to think deeply, to meditate on Scripture, and to not allow noise and hurry to clutter our minds in ways that inhibit the ability to think clearly. Proverbs 4:26 commands us, “Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.” Take time today to think quietly, to put away distractions, and to “give careful thought to the paths for your feet.”
3) TIME TO LISTEN
The Bible frequently reminds us as followers of Christ to take time to “hear.” Proverbs 5:1 is a beautiful example of this, saying to “pay attention to my wisdom” and to “lend your ear to my understanding.” I love the description of Jesus getting away from the crowds to be alone and to pray in Mark 1:35-37: “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went off to a solitary place, where He prayed. Simon and His companions went to look for Him, and when they found Him, they exclaimed, ‘Everyone is looking for you!’” Again, we see intentional use of time and prioritization of quiet. That solitary place may be sitting in your quiet car for lunch one day, slipping away for a walk around the neighborhood without your phone or headphones, picking one day of the week to wake up a half hour earlier, having an attitude of listening prayer in the shower, or if your children are old enough, simply telling them that this is mommy’s time with Jesus and that they can play by themselves for a half hour. Even if you feel like “everyone is looking for you!” entrust the details to the Lord and ask Him to help you take time to quietly listen.
And finally, as we practice being listeners through God’s Word and receiving encouragement directly from Him, we will begin to find that our hearts are more buoyant, more grateful, and more attuned to our relationships with others and to the beauty right around us: music, podcasts, or sermons will hold an extra nugget of encouragement. The sound of your children’s laughter will delight your heart readily. You may glean extra inspiration from a professor’s lecture or that school project! The sound of your husband singing in the shower will bless your heart all the more. You will see that crabby stranger in line at the grocery store through God’s eyes as someone who needs His grace just like you. The rustling of the wind in the trees might draw your thoughts upward toward the vastness of our Heavenly Father’s creation and His intimate care for it and for you. The crackle of the fireplace may even spark a God-given idea in you. When we take the time quiet ourselves in order to really listen, we begin actually feel rejuvenated as we receive life for our souls (Proverbs 3:22)!
4) TIME TO FEEL
The final component of cultivating an encouraged heart from the Lord and for His purposes is taking the time to feel. This does not mean expressing every feeling or thought that comes our way, nor does it mean that we regularly act on our feelings. Rather, it means that we take the time to be honest about what is below the surface. Many of us try to find little ways to feel happy or positive on the surface but underneath are carrying around unaddressed grief, heart wounds, uncertainties, shame, discontentment, and questions not yet answered. When we avoid them and do not honestly let ourselves feel them so that God can address those deep areas of our heart through His Word, His Holy Spirit, and other believers, it actually becomes difficult to experience deep joys, true beauty, and to live from a place of unwavering strength and hope in the Lord.
You may also find that as you simply take the time to read, to think, and to listen, that all of a sudden you experience the beauty of life in a much deeper way. Sometimes it is just a matter of taking the time to let your heart be stirred deeply. I have a three year old son, and this means much of my day includes nature walks, park trips, reading library books together, or just being nearby as he plays in the backyard or with his toys in the living room. I have been training myself to intentionally quiet my heart even for a few moments. As he runs from tree to tree on our nature walk, I have been choosing to look up at the sky, breathe, and think to myself, “Wow, Lord. Thank You for Your love which is immeasurably vast and higher than even the heavens above.” As my husband, my son, and I sit on the living room rug watching a Mister Rogers episode near the end of the day, I keep my phone away, wait to process end-of-day details, and just sit quietly with my family. Much of the show involves discussion of feelings, (God-given!) worth of others and self, and visits from world-renowned musicians and artists giving soul-nourishing gifts straight to my family and to my own heart.
I also choose to let my soul be stirred by things like the nostalgia of a particular hobby, a heart-to-heart talk with my husband, Facetimeing with family, a cup of coffee with a friend, watching a movie full of inspiration, and so much more. Psalm 34:4 says, “I sought the Lord, and He heart me, and delivered me from all my fears; they looked to Him and were radiant, and their faces were not ashamed.” God is glorified when we look to Him in all things. He wants to make us a radiant people who are a living testament to His faithfulness!
Dear Wholehearted Woman, in all things keep the eyes of your heart focused on the Lord. Yes, it takes time! But as you wisely navigate the time given to you by Him each day and develop habits of a quiet heart, you will find the enduring blessing of an encouraged heart. As we close, take the time to read, to think about, to listen to, and to feel the words of Zephaniah 3:17: “The Lord your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” Amen!
TIME TO REFLECT
1. Take some time to reflect honestly with the Lord about today’s devotion topic. How does taking the time to quiet your mind and heart go hand-in-hand with cultivating an encouraged heart in the Lord? What is the Holy Spirit speaking to you about this?
2. Revisit today’s Scripture passages. What do these verses teach us about God? How do they change things? (i.e. The way that we live? What we live for? Our experience of God?)
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(This devotion contains excerpts from The Wholehearted Woman: Who She is and Why She Matters by Beth Doohan and Jenni Walker.)