“…in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”
Sometimes, the hardest thing to do is to be quiet when you feel you have been wronged. It is human nature to defend our honor, especially when our reputation and credibility have been attacked. We don’t want these false accusations going out into the atmosphere. Lies are like millions of feathers in the wind. We cannot control their direction or recollect them.
In truth, our desire to defend ourselves is wrapped up in ego. We’re worried about how others perceive us. We don’t want people to think we’re weak or they can walk all over us. So, we immediately go to war when someone defames us because this cannot stand! This is a sign of weakness, and it gets exhausting after a while. We can’t fight everybody. And the truth is, the higher you go in leadership, the more it will happen. You become an easier target. No leader in history has walked this earth with an impeccable reputation. People are going to think what they want.
New level, new devil. Accept it. It’s not going to change.
So, what can we do?
The ability to remain silent in the face of persecution shows immense strength. I did not understand the power of silence until my final year of grad school, when I had worn myself out from trying to fight and defend everything and everybody. I realized I was fighting a war I could not win. If people don’t like you, then they are not going to believe you. Conversely, those who like you are going to support you regardless. So why bother trying to defend yourself? People are going to believe whatever they want to believe.
There is such power and freedom when we release our ego. When we stop caring one way or another about the opinions of others and walk in our truth, we have freed ourselves from a self-imposed prison. Most of the situations we stress about end up working out for our good when we are in a calm and rational state of mind. When we are reactive, then we tend to make matters worse. When we are proactive, the solution comes more quickly, and we save ourselves much energy.
Remain silent in the face of difficulty and trust that the truth will come out and you will be vindicated.
“See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared.”
These past two weeks have been traveling hell for me. I will spare you the details and summarize it this way: delays, cancellations, and missed connections. It appears the traveling mercies I prayed for had been denied. It felt like with each new setback, it was apparent that God was not with me. I missed one connection because the plane decided to leave early. I saw them closing the door as I approached the gate. Just a mere 50 ft away and running, I missed the flight because my first flight left late, and my connection left early. The gate agent said there was nothing he could do about it.
This was all too much to be a coincidence. I wondered what great sin I had committed for this to happen. What karma was I reaping? It got to the point where I had become so disenchanted that I just stopped praying altogether. What was the point? If this was a test of my patience, I am sure I failed. I handled these setbacks far better than in my B.C. days (Before Chaplaincy). But I still abandoned hope. What lesson was I supposed to learn from this?
The obvious lesson is Semper Gumby, always flexible. Things will not always go according to plan. The second lesson is expectation management. That goes right along with Semper Gumby. Sometimes we need to readjust our thinking and adapt to the circumstances. But the real lesson I think I was supposed to learn is that I was never alone throughout each travel inconvenience. God’s traveling mercies were right there with me from the beginning. I was never promised an easy journey, but I was promised safe delivery to my destination, which was accomplished. I arrived safely and unharmed at every place.
We are not promised an easy journey. But we are promised protection along the way to the place that has been prepared.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another…
U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy announced that America has a loneliness epidemic. Even before the pandemic, loneliness was an issue but has since been exacerbated. It is a health crisis with effects equivalent to smoking up to 15 cigarettes daily, according to Holt-Lunstad, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University.
“Loneliness is linked to an increased risk for anxiety and depression, heart disease, dementia and other health issues, as well as early death.”[i]
What is the root of this issue? Lack of connection. How is that possible with social media? Social media is an artificial connection. It is a great tool when we are far away from one another. However, social media has become so addictive that even when inhabiting the same space, we are distracted by our phones and other devices. It is like we live in the dystopian universe of Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline, where everyone prefers to live in the virtual reality world of the Metaverse OASIS rather than face reality.
During the season of Lent, I fasted from social media. I often do this when I feel it is consuming too much of my attention. Without social media, I have greater clarity and am more focused. I can accomplish far more in less time because I am less distracted. Whenever I abstain from social media, I instantly find the time I thought I never had enough of. It is the same 24 hours in the day that has always been. Time had not changed, but my priorities had. I am also healthier because I have more time to exercise. I gain new revelations and life perspectives because I am open to hearing what God communicates directly versus reading someone else’s alleged “revelation.” My creativity increases. Most importantly, I am more at peace because my world is quieter away from social media.
Whenever I end my social media fast and log back in, I am immediately overwhelmed by how much information is coming at me. The cacophony of voices is like a loud trumpet blasting in my ears. You only realize how many opinions come at you once you withdraw from the noise.
What is the lesson here?
Perhaps the cure to this loneliness epidemic is more real interactions and relationships. When you are around others, put down the phones. Cut out the distractions and give the other person your undivided attention. We’ve lost the ability to communicate because our heads are void of deep thoughts and filled with junk. Build genuine connections with the people you are closest to. Earth is beautiful! Enjoy and explore it! Not just for Instagram likes. Volunteer and be a blessing to someone else. It is hard to pity yourself when you are helping others.
Bottom line, log off and live life.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Currently in the Christian faith, we are in a season known as Lent. Lent is historically a mourning period as we anticipate the death of Jesus. It begins 46 days prior to Easter on a Wednesday known as Ash Wednesday because during Biblical times wearing ashes was a sign of mourning. Ash Wednesday is preceded by Shrove Tuesday, which is known as Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras represents the final party and indulgence of our flesh before we enter the mourning and self-denial period of Lent.
During Lent we are encouraged to fast and pray as we prepare for the death of Jesus. Christians are also encouraged to be more intentional in our studies and devotions. Lent ends on or around Easter, depending on your tradition. Most people give up certain foods, television, social media, or music. While others commit to reading the Bible faithfully or volunteering more during Lent.
While Lent may be a traditionally Christian observation, the principles of fasting and self-denial can be applied to anyone. We can all benefit from a period of abstaining from unhealthy habits, addictions, and distractions to focus and gain clarity on our life’s direction. During this time of Lent, I encourage all to stop and think about the things distracting us and use this period to refrain from them. Take the next 40 days to focus on an area that needs improvement and see how much you have changed by the end. The results will amaze you!