Thursday, May 28, 2009

Cultivating a Quiet Spirit

Have you ever known someone who has lived their whole life trusting God without question? I have someone in my life like that. I will call her Francis. She has seen more personal tragedy in her lifetime than most people ever will. As a teen, she had to quit school and go to work to help support the family when her father died unexpectedly. When her own children were young, a gas leak in her basement caused an explosion that demolished their home and everything in it. Several of her children became involved with alcohol and drugs for a period of time in their teen and early adult years. Her husband died prematurely after a long struggle with diabetes and heart problems. She herself has had major health issues over the years. But most of these hardships paled in comparison when she lost two small grandchildren in a terrible tragedy involving their mentally ill mother.

Just two weeks ago, Francis faced yet another heart-wrenching loss-- her son, only 52 years old, died of a heart attack.

I worried how she could ever recover from such a blow at her age, especially after all she has been through over the years. As I dialed her number the day after receiving the news, I prayed that the Lord would give me the right words to say that would bring a small amount of comfort to her grieving heart. The woman who answered the phone was grieving, no doubt. Yet one thing struck me above all else as we talked. She had total trust in the Lord through the circumstance. She was at peace and rested in God’s goodness and control.

Peter wrote the women of the church that they should have this same attitude. “Your adornment must not be merely external…but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of the Lord.” (1 Peter 3:3, 4) Those words, quiet spirit, used to worry me about my own spirituality. No one would ever use the word quiet to describe this story-telling, gregarious, loud-laughing extrovert. But the Greek word Peter uses is not the opposite of loud. It would be better translated peaceful. It is an attitude of complete trust and submission to the will of God.

Jesus had a quiet spirit. He determined to put His obedience to the Father’s will above all else. Not once did He deviate from the course set out for Him. He remained silent before His accusers. When He was mocked, he did not retaliate. He calmly washed the feet of two of his untrustworthy disciples on the night of his arrest: one would deny Him hours later, and the second would soon betray Him with a kiss. His obedience ultimately led to an excruciating death on a cross. How could the Sinless One remain so calmly focused in the chaos that surrounded Him? He rested in the fact that the Father was in control. His was a quiet spirit.

“You have assigned me my portion and my cup, and have made my lot secure,” David wrote in Psalm 16. Each assignment is made with our eternal good in mind. God could not do anything BUT good. While we might question His assignments from our limited perspective, in His wisdom, God is at work in the details of our lives with a focused agenda. He is determined to bring glory to Himself and to complete the work in us started at our salvation.

Key to remaining at peace with God is determining ahead of time what we want. David had the right idea: “One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to mediate in His temple.” (Psalm 27:4) Paul echoes this sentiment: “One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14) Both Paul and David had one priority, one thing in mind: to live their lives focused on the God they loved. This desire can be lived out regardless of circumstance.

We can spend our days fussing and fuming at a God whom we believe might be in control, yet has questionable wisdom or goodness. Or we can doubt His power over circumstances or even His intimate involvement in our lives. However, scripture gives us a different picture. It depicts a powerful God who created the universe with a word. That same powerful God makes it His business to know every thought we think and the number of hairs on our head. He loves us with a passion, and every act of His toward us reflects that great love.

Instead of balking at what happens in our lives, we must determine to love God with our mind, soul, heart, and strength. Circumstances are really inconsequential to this agenda. This is something that my friend Francis has already learned. And when we determine to live with a quiet spirit, deciding to trust God regardless of what lies ahead, Peter tells us this is precious in the sight of the Lord.


Khris said...

From time to time we are blessed to know someone special in our lives like this woman. Sometimes I think God places these people in strategic places in our lives. We learn from them of the inner peace and joy we can have through Jesus despite our circumstances. God bless you for posting this. God bless Francis for the blessing she is.

John said...

I know someone like that, too, ironically enough. She's quite inspiring.


Mags said...

"quiet and gentle spirit"...thank you for that insight. Its comforting to know that there is still hope for the forthright speaking extrovert as well.