Friends have been concerned about my well-being since my husband died.  “How will you get along without someone in the house?” is the most common question.  In reality, I think they are asking, “How will you survive the quiet?”

Even though the Bible tells believers to “Be still,” at least eight times, we seem to think that noise is more holy than quietness.  We love to sing and quote, “Be still and know that I am God.”  Yet, our modern-day living screams another message.  Too often, we do not teach the truth of the benefits of a quiet, spirit life.

From the hum of traffic that seeps through our windows to the murmur of our TV’s which continually stimulates our minds, we are almost never bathed by quiet.  While peace is not the same thing as quiet, it is perhaps impossible to be quiet without God’s inner peace reigning in our spirits.

Here are a couple of things that I’ve learned from others in my pursuit of practicing quiet.

  1. Set aside a time each day to listen to the Lord.  Prayer and listening are different dispciplines from quietness.  While God usually speaks to an active mind, waiting for the Lord in a quiet setting prepares us to hear from the Lord.
  2. Start with small bites of times.  Thirty minutes are much too long.  Don’t even attempt it.  Begin with one minute.  That minute will seem like an eternity at first.  But you will find that progressing to 5 minutes will be easier than that initial 60 seconds.  After you develop a set-aside time and you faithfully follow it, you will crave a quiet time.
  3. During the day, eliminate as much background noise as you can.  Turn off the TV, if you aren’t watching a specific program.
  4. Don’t let praise and worship music become a distraction from your quiet times.  Again, praise and worship are different from being still and quiet.
  5. During these times, harness your thoughts.  Be sure that thoughts of the Lord’s goodness and thankfulness are immersing your mind.
I read The Practice of the Presence of God as a young wife and mother.   The teachings found in this thesis captured my spirit.  It was written in the 17th century by the monk, Brother Lawrence, who was a cook and dishwasher in a monastery in Paris.  The disciplines practiced by this monk have been amazing stress relievers for me and thousands of others seeking to know God more completely.
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Several times each week, I would take one or all of my children on foot, crossing the busy five-lane A1A Highway to the ocean.  Each time, I would instruct them.  “Stop.  Look both ways.  Listen.   And do not EVER run across a busy highway.”

Once we had gotten through the traffic; and we were safely on the other side, I would explain.  “If you run, you may fall.  If you fall, you will not be able get up; and a car will hit you.  Before you begin to cross the highway, always be certain that there is enough room between the cars that you don’t have to run.”

These were the same instructions my mother and father had given to my sister, brother and me when we had to navigate across the bustling Dorchester Road in Charleston Heights, SC.  My parents owned an ice cream parlor in a small strip mall; and we often had to walk to their work.  Mother’s instructions echoed in our minds so accurately that when we were old enough to walk with my older sister and without our parents, we would tell each other how to cross before we stepped off the curb onto the buzzing street.

Now, many decades later, it was such good advice that I’m still giving myself the same instructions about many areas in my life.  In more detail, here are steps you can take to eliminate many stressful situations.

  1. Stop!  Take a break.  Whether you are pressing too hard to complete a garden project, preparing to host a social event or trying to meet a pending deadline, taking a break will enhance your productivity and increase your ability to concentrate.  Thereby, your stress level will be reduced.
  2. Look far beyond the immediate situation.  Continually look at your life and at your goals.  To cross a bustling highway, you must understand the patterns of traffic.  This takes times of examination.  To understand what God has planned for you.  Daily evaluation and observations is essential.
  3. Listen!  Observing the flow of traffic for a highway and in your life takes all your senses.  Listen to the Lord, your critics and your friends.
  4. Don’t run.  Only people who are insecure about their ability to cross a busy highway attempt to run across the street.  Running dramatically elevates your chance of failure.  You increase your stress level–not lower it–when you are in a hurry.  Be sure that you have the time needed to complete tasks.  Then and only then, proceed.  Tripping and falling in the middle of a project spells disaster and increases the strain on your body and mind.
Years ago when I was learning to hear the voice of the Lord, a respected teacher and older friend told me, “Linda, God has an eternity to accomplish His good work in you.  He doesn’t push us.  If I feel extreme inner pressure, I stop.  Then I seek God to truly hear from Him.  God isn’t in a hurry.”  That day my stress level decreased sustantially.  Each time I remember her wisdom, I’m blessed by lower stress levels and God’s peace.

When I first began writing to meet a deadline, I found that I could sit at the computer for only a limited number of hours.  Every 15 minutes or so, I would walk around the house or yard.  I might get a glass of iced tea or stroll through the yard.  After a couple of hours, I had to completely stop and take a walk.  Armed with my 30 to 40 sheets of manuscript and a sharp pencil, I would slowly meander through our neighborhood while rereading and re-editing the document I’d just written.

I learned from this experience that taking a walk is different from other exercises.  Walking is a low impact, uncomplicated pathway to greater health.  As simple as it is, taking a walk can be an amazing stress reliever.  Stress is a fact of life.  No matter what your occupation or avocation, you are hit with harmful stress if you don’t watch your step.  Some of the most beneficial steps are taken while you walk.

Walking relieves stress levels because it increases our levels of endorphins.  These are the hormones which medical professionals tell us make us happy.  One reason is that endorphins help you to feel good about yourself.

Of course, you can get the endorphin jolt from ordinary exercise.  So why walk instead?

Walking allows you to slow down enough to enjoy the wonders of your natural surroundings.  It’s almost impossible to walk and not find something that is fascinating and interesting.

Wild flowers inching between the cracks in the sidewalk, a bug scurrying away to feed her young, your neighbor’s willow tree swinging in the wind can become moment of exquisite pleasure.   By alerting your mind to become involved in the adventure, you can experience a delightful, stress-defeating break.

The best walks happen along the shore of a lake, river or ocean.  The rhythmic sounds of moving water adds additional stress relieving benefits.  However, for many people, this isn’t possible.  Nevertheless, if you are one of the fortunate folks who can walk near a body of water, this excursion produces a significant calming affect.

If you have a raincoat and an umbrella, don’t be afraid to walk in the rain.   Take off your shoes and socks.  Roll up your pant legs. Splash in the puddles.  Take pleasure and benefit from the textures and coolness of the water.

Two thousand years ago, Jesus and his disciples walked continually.  In fact, in those days, everyone walked several miles a day.  Times have changed.  Modern transportation can easily take us thousands of miles in one day.  However, some of the greatest stress-relieving benefits can be found through the healthy and simple exercise of walking.