Simplicity, Solitude, and Sabbath – Whether we like it or not.
I thought I would put a small segment together today called Wednesdays in the Word, because we are not gathering for Wonderful Wednesdays but it is still important for us to dive into God’s word, explore our faith, and enjoy what God has for us in every moment.
As I continue to ask God what He has for myself and for the church during these trying times, I feel strongly that this “societal shut-down” can be an opportunity for us as Christians to practice our faith in a deep and intentional way.
Rather than seeing it as a time of painful isolation, we can make the best of the restrictions we have been given, slow down a little bit, and treat it as a beautiful time of Simplicity, Solitude, and Sabbath. These are three things that we as Americans often fail to understand and put into practice.
Let’s first dive into the spiritual discipline of Simplicity.
“The central point for the Discipline of simplicity is to seek the kingdom of God and the righteousness of His kingdom first and then everything necessary will come in its proper order.” – A quote from Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster. Simplicity sets our possessions in proper perspective. Today, at the store, we see people grasping for the last roll of toilet paper when they might have three packages at home. This is crazy!
Let’s dive into Luke 12:15-21 (The Passion Translation). Speaking to the people, Jesus continued, “Be alert and guard your heart from greed and always wishing for what you don’t have. For your life can never be measured by the amount of things you possess.”
Jesus then gave them this illustration: “A wealthy land owner had a farm that produced bumper crops. In fact, it filled his barns to overflowing! He thought, ‘What should I do now that every barn is full and I have nowhere else to store more? I know what I’ll do! I’ll tear down the barns and build one massive barn that will hold all my grain and goods. Then I can just sit back, surrounded with comfort and ease. I’ll enjoy life with no worries at all.’
“God said to him, ‘What a fool you are to trust in your riches and not in me. This very night the messengers of death are demanding to take your life. Then who will get all the wealth you have stored up for yourself?’ This is what will happen to all those who fill up their lives with everything but God.”
– Some people are building bigger garages to store their toilet paper and facial tissues. – Some people are trying to profit off of the pandemic by reselling hand sanitizer for over $100 a bottle. – We as Christians are not called to cling to our possessions, but rather to share our possessions with those who need them most, for all things belong to God first.
This destroys the notion that we must take things for ourselves so that we have plenty, and reorients our lives to consider the needs of others first. On page 89 of the Celebration of Discipline, Foster writes:
“If our goods are not available to the community when it is clearly right and good, then they are stolen goods. The reason we find such an idea so difficult is our fear of the future. We cling to our possessions rather than sharing them because we are anxious about tomorrow. But if we truly believe that God is who Jesus says he is, then we do not need to be afraid. When we come to see God as the almighty Creator and our loving Father, we can share because we know that he will care for us. If someone is in need, we are free to help them.”
Simplicity goes far beyond our possessions and can include things like our employment or our reputation.
To have simplicity is have the freedom to trust God for all things in life. Sometimes we cling to our possessions because we are anxious about tomorrow, but we do not need to live in fear. Christian simplicity is trusting that God will provide for us as we faithfully follow Him.
May God give us the courage, wisdom, and strength to always hold the kingdom of God as the number-one priority in our lives, no matter what happens in this world.
As far as Solitude goes, this can be uncomfortable for us to practice, especially those who are fed by their regular social interactions. It is important for us to know… Solitude is more of a state of the mind and the heart than it is a place.
During a time when there are no large gatherings permitted, and there are less and less places for us to go to be distracted, we can allow our minds and our hearts to find their peaceful home in Christ.
As we look inward, we might find our souls wanting to turn towards darkness and wander away from God. This can happen as fear sneaks its way into the silence and tempts us to lean in.
That is why solitude requires discipline. It can be hard to find God in the silence, or to see Him working in the midst of the storm, but the Holy Spirit helps us do as it says in Colossians 3:2, and set our minds on things above.
If we invite the Spirit in, then we will see Jesus calm the storm within us and replace our fear with peace. When we pause, and reach for God in the silence, we will begin to breathe again, and find heaven dwelling richly within our hearts and minds.
Jesus is calling us from loneliness into solitude. God is drawing us out of our panic and He is pulling us into His peace. And the Holy Spirit is making a way for us to find joy and rest in our stillness.
The final piece I wanted to share is on the Sabbath. This is a commandment God has given us to help us, but it is one that we often break. It is actually one of the Ten Commandments in Exodus.
Exodus 20:8-10 says… Not only is it in the Laws of Moses, but we see Jesus address the Sabbath in the New Covenant.
In Mark chapter 2, we can read how the pharisees caught Jesus and the disciples picking heads of grain and snacking as they were passing through, which was apparently considered work and was deemed to be unlawful practice on the Sabbath.
In Mark 2:27, Jesus responds with the familiar quote, “the Sabbath was made for people, not people for the Sabbath” and Jesus declares that he is “Lord over the Sabbath” From this we can gather that the Sabbath is more than a law, it is a way of life!
The word “sabbath” essentially means to cease, which is exactly what some of us are stuck doing. We have found ourselves in a bit of an accidental sabbath, but we have been given the beautiful opportunity to stop our ordinary work and rediscover rest.
Work and rest were intended to be practiced in a life-sustaining rhythm. In the book Soul Feast, Marjorie Thompson defines rest as “the profoundly joyful refreshment from which new effort arises,” and “the deep well from which we draw our strength.”
Our time spent resting in God is what fuels our work. It might be uncomfortable at first, but I want to challenge each one of you, including myself, to cease from your ordinary work and find moments of rest in the midst of this pandemic.
To close, I wanted to share a poem by Lynn Ungar called “Pandemic”.
“What if you thought of it as the Jews consider the Sabbath— the most sacred of times? Cease from travel. Cease from buying and selling. Give up, just for now, on trying to make the world different than it is. Sing. Pray. Touch only those to whom you commit your life. Center down.
And when your body has become still, reach out with your heart. Know that we are connected in ways that are terrifying and beautiful. (You could hardly deny it now.) Know that our lives are in one another’s hands. (Surely, that has come clear.) Do not reach out your hands. Reach out your heart. Reach out your words. Reach out all the tendrils of compassion that move, invisibly, where we cannot touch. Promise this world your love– for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, so long as we all shall live.”