If you’ve ever taught someone – like your child – how to drive, you know there are so many skills that you need to teach them:
- Make sure your mirrors are adjusted.
- Make sure your seatbelt is on and the steering wheel and seat are in the right position.
- Make sure you are familiar with where the lights are.
- Make sure you know how the windshield wipers and turn signals work.
- Make sure you know where your blind spot is.
…All that before you even get out of the driveway! Then there is:
- how to stay between the lines,
- watch for other cars,
- know how to make a turn onto another road,
- pay attention to the road signs,
- watch your speed but keep your eyes on the road,
- and so much more.
I didn’t even get started with how to drive on a highway, in bad weather, or how to parallel park!
knowing how to stop
There is one skill that is the most important skill of all when driving…knowing how to stop. As simple as it sounds, picture a driver who goes along on the highway with proficiency and speed, but cannot stop. What would happen? Eventually, the driver would get so tired that he or she would fall asleep at the wheel and have a serious accident!
Exactly the same principle applies to our daily lives. As we drive along the highway of life, we need to develop many skills and abilities. We must learn how to communicate, how to get along with others, how to plan, how to delegate, how to strategize, how to raise our children, how to do our jobs effectively, and so on and so on. Yet one basic skill underlies all these things: learning how to stop. Unless we learn how to stop, we too will crash and burn out in one way or another.
There are so many good reasons to stop. For instance, stopping gives us time to renew our energy and to replenish our emotional and spiritual health. It gives us time to gather ourselves, relax, get our heads on straight, and become calm. It’s almost impossible to reflect on our lives when we are continuously living at full speed. Before we realize it, we find ourselves operating on autopilot, going from one activity to another without much thought at all about what we are actually doing and why we are doing it.
Stopping for a while enables us to recognize more clearly those destructive patterns of life that push us way beyond our God-given limits. Stopping for a while helps us to think clearly and make better choices to live in a more healthy and life-giving way. One of the few good things about experiencing exhaustion and burnout is that it, all too often, forces us to stop.
Now, something else in our entire world today has forced us to stop or at least greatly slow down. Because of this coronavirus, we have all been forced to slow down and many of us completely stop our regular routines.
Maybe you haven’t been exhausted or burnout lately, but chances are many have been, and have been for a very long time. Between work, family, caring for elderly parents, doctors’ appointments, kids who have extra activities like clubs and sports, winter sports have ended, but spring sports began right after that. Homework, maybe schooling yourself, cleaning your home, outside work now about to begin…the list could go on and on. There is always more to do because we have developed a lifestyle at full speed ahead! We have to admit, we have been in overdrive for a whole lot longer than our bodies and minds were ever designed to handle.
And whose fault is that? Sure, we can blame Satan because, yes, he’s been lying to us our whole lives telling us to live the complete opposite of what God tells us. And he’s very good at trickery and deceitfulness. Yet we have been the ones foolishly believing those lies even though our bodies, our minds and our spirits, the word of God have been shouting something entirely different.
Look, I believe full-heartedly that God will use everything for His good. God is working in every aspect of life, including in the virus. That does not mean God caused the virus – or any bad for that matter. God does not cause the evil of our world. We live in a broken world. When Adam and Eve chose to disobey God and eat from the tree of good and evil, sin began. And every generation after them has also been choosing sin over God.
Romans 8:28 says,
“We know that God works all things together for good for the ones who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
I know this virus is terrible. And I know God didn’t cause it. Many of us have been trying to do our part by not being around people, staying in our homes, isolating ourselves, not taking the kids to soccer practice, not going to the 4-H meetings, not going to work, and so here we are all forced to slow down and do what?
What are you doing with your time?
Now that you have been slowed down or your routine has been put to a stop, what are you doing with your time? Spending time with our kids? That sounds nice. Clean your house, starting the yard work. Ok, that all sounds great. But I beg you to look at this time with a different perspective than just catching up on what you are behind on.
Allow me to explain with a story, about a man from the Old Testament, and not just any man but a man of God, in fact, one of the well-known prophets. His name is Elijah and his story is told in 1 Kings.
Elijah’s story comes during a time when Israel and Judah (God’s people) are separated. Israel, the northern kingdom, had no faithful kings throughout its history. Each king was wicked, actually leading the people in worshiping pagan gods. Few priests were left (most had gone down to Judah). And the priests anointed by Israel’s corrupted kings were also corrupted.
With no king or priests to bring God’s word to the people, over the years God called prophets like Elijah to do so. At Elijah’s time, Ahab was king, his wife was Jezebel. Both were very evil in God’s eyes, promoting idol worship of a fake pagan god, named Baal. To give you an idea of how evil…Jezebel ranks as the evilest woman in the Bible. Revelation even uses her name to describe people who completely reject God.
No one was more determined than Jezebel to make all of Israel worship her gods. And unfortunately, she had great power not only over her husband, but she also had 850 pagan priests under her control. She was ruthless and wanted only her own way. And the one thing she wanted most was to eliminate every representative of God.
So here’s Elijah sent to confront these two evil people. Knowing that because he was a representative of God, Jezebel would want to kill him too. Talk about a stressful job! But Elijah does as God asks and delivers God’s messages. And he wins victory over those two people – two times. Through Elijah, God defeated all those prophets of Baal and made it rain after a three-year drought.
Let’s continue the story from that point. 1 Kings 19:1-18
Elijah was tired and discouraged. He was burnt out. Even though he had won two victories with God, the emotional effects of it, and the threat of Jezebel was just too much for him to bear. Elijah was looking at his life through a pretty narrow lens. He said, “I have had enough, Lord. Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.” (1 Kings 19:4)
Elijah felt that he had given his best effort, which had not been good enough. He believed he was now the only one left on God’s side and that his former allies wanted to kill him. A deep sense of failure had corrupted his thinking, drained him of energy, and left him utterly worn-out. He wanted to give up.
Fortunately, when he ran away, Elijah put himself in a perfect position. Elijah ran away from the chaos, not necessary to God, but God found him even in the loneliest of place and took care of him, fed him, gave him water to drink, and encouraged him. God told him your work isn’t done, but before you get back to it, let’s do this to help you see from my perspective.
God lead him on a 40 day and 40-night journey that was over 200 miles. So God fed him a couple of times to build up his energy. And like Moses before him and Jesus after him, Elijah fasted for those 40 days and 40 nights. And where God took him was perfect. Elijah was led to Mount Sinai, to the sacred place where God had met Moses and gave the 10 commandants to His people. It was as if God was sending him back to the beginning. A place where he was away from all the chaos and could hear God speak.
When Elijah slowed himself down over the 40 days and came to Mount Saini, he experienced the benefit of stopping. He became quiet and could listen to what God was trying to say to him as he hid in a cave. Even though it took him a couple of tries to really hear what God was saying, he kept himself there and was still listening.
When God asked him, “What are you doing here?” Elijah was able to open up to God about those crazy events and experiences that had brought his life to this point. But really hearing God means getting closer so that you can actually hear Him.
So God sent him to the mountain top where there was a mighty wind, an earthquake, and a fire. But God wasn’t in any of those. (Elijah knew that God doesn’t only reveal himself in powerful, miraculous ways.) It was when he heard a still small voice, a gentle whisper, that he knew, from the bottom of his heart, it was God.
Nothing gets our attention like a gentle whisper
God’s still small voice means that we need to move in much closer and become much more still if we want to hear what God may be whispering to us. It means we need to learn how to stop and press pause.
Learning to stop and sit still can be very revealing of ourselves. It can be very difficult too because we don’t want to reveal our real selves. And since we’ve trained ourselves to be so busy, sitting still is not in most of our capabilities. But yet to hear the still small voice, we have to practice sitting still and being present with God – slowing down and even stopping.
While we want to panic because we have to slow down or even stop our lives right now, we need to see from God’s perspective on this whole virus thing. Again, God did not cause it, but He sure will use it and use the effects it has on all of us. We have the perfect opportunity right here and right now, to step back from the noise and activities of our busy lives, and take time to listen for God. He wants to talk to you every day, and many times throughout the day. We are just too busy to stop and listen to Him.
“Be still and know that I am God.”
Like Elijah, you are not alone in the craziness of this world, and you are not alone in slowing down either. We need to let go of our busy lives for the time being and get closer to God so we can hear what He’s trying to say to us. Tell God about the things that weigh on your mind, and then be quiet and try to hear what God may be wanting to say to you through them.
God asked Elijah, “What are you doing here?” I ask you, “What will you do?”
What will you do?
If you have more time now than usual, what will you do with this time given to you? Even if you are a healthcare worker working even more hours than normal, it’s likely that some things have still slowed down in your life, something has been canceled. What will you do with this time? I highly recommend, encourage, and in fact, I beg you to not waste it. I pray that now more than ever, you can find quiet moments to be still with God. If you even take just a few minutes, make it count and completely stop and listen for His voice. He’s there waiting for you. This time is such a wonderful opportunity to set our lives back to God. To center on Jesus. To strengthen our relationship with Him. To build up our faith so we can trust God with all of our lives. What will you do with this time that is given to you?