Unshakable and AssuredMar 30, 2022
Blog by Gem Fadling
Many years ago, at a retreat center near our home, I was sitting outside my bedroom door and pondering the view: bark chips. The center was beginning a landscape renovation, and now thousands of bark chips carpeted the area.
Why bark chips? I felt disappointed by the lack of grass, which to me would have been more soothing and beautiful. Instead I was greeted by a large, dry spread of tiny bits of wood.
As I stared at the bark chips I realized that they were a perfect metaphor for the multitude of thoughts in my head. They represented the inner clutter I had brought with me to this time away in solitude. No wonder they disturbed me so.
I sat in the chair on my little porch and shared with God how I was looking forward to the way he would meet with me over the next 24 hours. How would I become free from the inner clutter?
By the time I got to the end of my 24-hour retreat, a few things had shaken down. I realized that the swirl in my head was not caused by the details of my life but by my overprocessing of those details.
At that time I was reading Sacred Companions by David Benner. In one of the chapters he encouraged a friend not to second-guess what God is up to or overanalyze what one is supposed to learn from a situation. In context, he was in no way dismissing the thoughtful pondering of God’s work in one’s life. There are times, however, when too much thinking or analyzing is counterproductive. Sometimes we get stuck in our own head, which can lead to unhealthy inaction.
Over the years I have grown in this area. I still tend to analyze, but I don’t get stuck as often as I used to. Back then I would spin my wheels by asking why or I would seek to control a situation by overthinking. I’d get sidetracked by the opinions of others and by my own ever-changing emotions. I would exhaust myself with overanalyzing.
During my time at the retreat center I was deeply encouraged by two passages on peace:
“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27 NLT)
“I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace.” (John 16:33 Message)
By my own efforts I couldn’t make the bark chips of my inner clutter go away. I could, however, receive the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ. I could continue to attune myself to God in the midst of the clutter, and my time of retreat became a space for the dust to settle and for me to remember what is always true: God is present and he grants peace.
God is with us, speaking, leading, and loving. Finding his voice of peace is like being in a large, bustling crowd and tuning in to one voice among the throng. I am still learning to be still so I can listen and receive.
- How about you? Do you sometimes overthink relationships or situations?
- What emotions and/or actions does such overthinking lead to?
- How might you encounter the Prince of Peace today?
- How might you make your way to being “unshakable and assured, deeply at peace”?