“Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind.” – Ecclesiastes 4:6
Just reading that makes me breathe more easily. Gosh how I wish I could live my entire life under this mantra.
We’ve slowly let quietness slip out of the routine of our day-to-day lives. Between busyness and technology, there’s just no room for this type of rest. Rest for us has gone from actual relaxation to activities like watching TV, scrolling Facebook, talking on the phone and working out. None of these things is inherently bad, but they aren’t really restful, and they certainly aren’t quiet.
It’s cool to be busy. We wear sleeplessness, over-commitment and stress like badges of honor. The idea of a 9 to 5 job is so antiquated I feel like I can’t even use the phrase anymore. No one who wants to be anyone works 40-hour weeks. And then we add even more activities on top of our jobs. A calendar with nothing on the books is like an indictment on a life not lived to the fullest.
How much toiling and striving after wind do I do in my life? I feel like I’m constantly toiling, hanging on tightly to what I have and reaching and grabbing for a little bit more. No matter what I achieve, how much I acquire, I’m always looking for the next thing.
I lack quietness in my life. Part of it is that I have a toddler and a newborn, but part of it is definitely the way I go about my days and the way I think about life. Nothing is ever enough for me. I’m never satisfied with the status quo. There’s always one more part of the house I could decorate, one more errand I could run, one more hobby I could pick up.
Hobbies. Don’t you feel like you’re nothing if you don’t have a hobby these days? And not just “I golf on the weekends.” I legitimately feel bad that I don’t brew my own coffee or sew handmade baby clothes or own an Etsy shop. And it’s because the world is telling me that I should be doing those things, that they should be just another part of my everyday life.
I want to be creative. I want to have hobbies. I think there is great value in doing something you love. But I also have to know my limits, and right now my limit is taking care of my family, and doing a little bit of writing here and there, and that should be okay. When my desire for a hobby starts to seep into the quietness of my soul and turns into toiling and striving, it loses its value.
We don’t value quietness and rest at all in our society, and I think it is killing us. I’m naturally an anxious person, and when I overfill my life, I become more anxious. That is not good for me. When I don’t get enough sleep because I’ve got too much to do, I get rundown. I also lose valuable time with my family and friends, time to relax and just be with people, which is what we were made for. We were made for communion, with God and with one another, and when we are busy we miss out on that beautiful and essential aspect of life.
Recently a friend from Bible study asked if I wanted to start fasting with her once a week. I can’t do that right now because I’m nursing (read: starving all the time), but I decided to do a tech fast on the day she fasts. So every Tuesday, I limit my tech usage to texts and phone calls only when necessary. No Internet, no TV, no radio. And let me tell you, it’s quiet. Often too quiet for me. Inevitably I think of pressing issues that must be resolved immediately and can only be done online, or my toddler is a complete mess and all I want to do is veg out watching TV during his nap. But when those desires come up, I try to turn my attention instead to God. It’s actually been really convicting because even without the outside distractions, I’m still bad at turning my eyes to Jesus, at quieting the busyness in my soul in order to stop and meditate on Him. But it has also been freeing to know that no, I don’t need all of that noise, and yes, it is relaxing to have a break from it. I wish I could live more of my days like that.
We don’t need all of this noise. We don’t need to keep toiling and striving. Jesus wants us to find rest in Him.
1 For God alone my soul waits in silence;
from him comes my salvation.
2 He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.
3 How long will all of you attack a man
to batter him,
like a leaning wall, a tottering fence?
4 They only plan to thrust him down from his high position.
They take pleasure in falsehood.
They bless with their mouths,
but inwardly they curse. Selah
5 For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
for my hope is from him.
6 He only is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
7 On God rests my salvation and my glory;
my mighty rock, my refuge is God.
8 Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before him;
God is a refuge for us. Selah
9 Those of low estate are but a breath;
those of high estate are a delusion;
in the balances they go up;
they are together lighter than a breath.
10 Put no trust in extortion;
set no vain hopes on robbery;
if riches increase, set not your heart on them.
11 Once God has spoken;
twice have I heard this:
that power belongs to God,
12 and that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love.
For you will render to a man
according to his work. Psalm 62