Quietness, Rest, and Trust
Updated: Feb 8
"In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength..." (Isaiah 30:15)
In considering the matter of giving God a chance to become active in our lives we learn
from the scripture above three key aspects that will facilitate this process: quietness, rest, and
trust. The fourth ingredient mentioned in this scripture - repentance - is also necessary, but is
more of a preliminary aspect. Before anything can happen for us spiritually, we must
wholeheartedly embrace repentance. For, only then will our spiritual quest become grounded in
the truth about the human predicament that makes further growth possible. This being said, it is
not uncommon for one who has experienced sincere repentance to find themselves frustrated
in regards to demonstrating God's power. In other words, though we would like to give God the
chance to move and to demonstrate the great glories of Its kingdom in our lives, we find
ourselves unwittingly blocking these outworkings on account of the conditioned patterns of our
own inner responses. So let us examine in greater detail how cultivating these three aspects -
quietness, rest, and trust - can help us.
First of all, let us define what scripture means by the word quietness. In the world quietness
is most often thought of as the absence of noise. And noise is most often thought of as
something outside of us - that is, some unpleasant sound we encounter that enters our ears and
jangles our nerves. But when scripture speaks of quietness, it means something quite different. It is speaking not of the absence of noise from outside of ourselves; it is speaking of the absence of noise arising from within ourselves. What is it that constitutes this inner noise? It is our own thoughts and emotions.
Most of us who have been on the spiritual journey any length of time have become aware of our own thoughts and emotions, at least to some degree. We have learned to stand back and observe these often habitual inward processes. But it is unlikely that we have ever viewed these processes as being noisome. The reason for this is that both thought and emotion seem to us to be natural and relatively harmless quiet activities. As we endeavor to focus our full conscious awareness on these inner activities, however, we are often appalled by how low and obtrusive they can be. That which had once seemed quiet and harmless is suddenly perceived as highly impositional and problematic. Why is this? Because our own heightened conscious awareness has the effect of turning up the volume. And since sincere conscious awareness is always revealing of the truth, what we come to understand is that our thoughts and emotions have always been noisy; we just have not been listening very closely. Then as we come to recognize the noise factor that has always been going on inside of us, it suddenly makes perfect sense that such a blatant imposition would impact the overall climate of our inner world and block the activity of God. It would cause such a distracting energy and disturbed mindset that God cannot be perceived. For this reason scripture tells us that God is not found in the whirlwind, the earthquake, or the fire; God is found in the stillness (1 Kings 19:11, 12; Psalm 46:10). Therefore the quietude we must cultivate has little to do with the avoidance of outside sounds. Rather it has everything to do with learning how to detach ourselves from our own thoughts and emotions and thereby turn down the volume that they create.
This is easier said than done. Even those who have embraced the daily discipline of
practicing mindfulness - that is, the meditative nonjudgmental observing of thought and
emotion - have found that progress in this matter can be elusive. Curiously, on some days one's
thoughts seem so innocuous that they are easily tamed. But on the very next day, the same
thought processes can seem like a runaway train. Why is this? It is because they have in all
likelihood been infused with some unconsciously triggered emotion. When this is the case, the
most helpful thing we can do is to attempt to consciously separate thought from emotion. These
two mental functions have become intricately intertwined in the incubator of unconsciousness.
But if we can succeed in disentangling them, what we will find is that when it comes to the noise
level of our inner workings, emotion is the real culprit. Thought without the blinding infusion of
emotion, is generally somewhat tame. Rarely can we make thought cease altogether, but by
taking the emotion out of it we defang it and render it more submissive. Then in that condition it
becomes possible to turn the volume down and thereby greatly reduce the level of inner
The thing that many do not realize is that though we cannot switch off thinking altogether,
we can swear off emotion. We can steer almost entirely clear of it. Most of our emotions tend to
be habitual responses bred in the incubator of unconsciousness and reactivity. As such, we have
the power to gain mastery over and say no to them through conscious awareness. This may
involve a process of intensive observation, in which we first learn to detect the instigating of an
emotional response, then trace that emotion back to its reactive source or trigger, and finally
learn to diffuse it by isolating it and disentangling it from our thoughts. While this may seem like
a lot of work, it can be done. And once we become capable of recognizing most emotions and the
triggers that set them off, this will then empower us to steer clear of them.
Learning to say no to unconsciously triggered emotion can revolutionize the climate of our
inner world. Unfortunately, very few of us are willing or able to do this. Why? Because of a
conditioned, misdirected attachment to emotion.
The problem is that in our life-depleted modern culture emotion has come to be viewed as a
tonic. In other words, the feeling of strong emotions has become confused with the brand of life
enhancement that can be found only through spiritual realization. Emotion is equated with passion, and passion is upheld as one of the foremost indicators of true life. This is the reason that indulging in strong emotions has for many of us become an addiction. Our cultural conditioning has made this brand of emotional indulgence into a habit that is very difficult to kick. And as with any addiction we unconsciously cling to, we tend to adopt a myriad of justifications aimed at its perpetuation. What all this boils down to is that the high place we ascribe to emotion is an ingrained but false belief. Or to put it another way, our staunch defense of emotional indulgence is a lie - a lie that does us great harm. For many people, this deception has become so convincing that they have come to view life without emotion as being not worth living. This is tragic because the life abundant that Jesus spoke of - a life based not on passion but rather on spiritual fulfillment - has always been here with us, within our reach.
To make the decision to swear off emotion does not mean that we become unfeeling or heartless. No, emotions will always arise naturally as responses to certain stimuli. What it does mean is that we stop indulging in emotion as a tonic. We stop justifying our lack of control under the guise of passion. And we begin to exercise a degree of discernment about steering clear of situations that we suspect have the potential to become emotional powder kegs. In this way we gradually wean ourselves off of our culturally conditioned attachment to emotion, and when this weaning off is accomplished we find that the climate of our inner world becomes considerably quieter and less volatile. Emotion and thought become disentangled and clearly delineated, and out of that delineation comes greater spiritual authority. The blinding colors of emotion are replaced by the cool pastels of subservient thought. The overall noise level of our inner world is greatly reduced, replaced by quietude and tranquility. And in this climate of dispassion God is free to move.
The second aspect that facilitates God's movement is rest. Like quietness, rest of the
spiritual variety involves a surprising realization. In the world rest is associated primarily with
inactivity - that is the ceasing from doing. And while this is indeed true of spiritual rest also,
what we come to understand is that we can and often do indulge in a laborious mindset even
after bringing a halt to our physical exertions. In other words, spiritual rest involves a deeper
level of non-doing. It involves ceasing from labors that we often carry on, even when we are not
conscious of doing anything. Meanwhile, it is a scientific truth that God will never play second
fiddle in our inner world. As long as we are busy doing God can and will do nothing.
What then is the nature of this activity that we constantly carry on inwardly, even when not physically exerting ourselves? It is the mental activity of planning, plotting, scheming, calculating, and figuring everything out. Why is this mental activity considered laborious? Because what we are really doing is trying to prepare ourselves for the actual work of doing. We are merely dividing up our chores into a preliminary mental stage and a physical doing stage. By this approach we seek to cover all the bases, carry out our agenda and achieve success.
This mental unrest is sometimes called cleverness, and it is a highly respected and envied
trait in our present society. Thus we behold people that always seem to achieve their goals with
great success. Why? Because behind the scenes they have been hard at work, engaged in a
thorough preparatory regimen. They have spent many hours plotting and scheming in their
minds before taking action with their bodies. In fact, in our world it is not uncommon for a
particularly ambitious person to be involved in this kind of labor non-stop. Between mental
calculation and physical implementation, their labors never cease. And if their own labors never
cease, we can be sure that God is a non-factor in their inner world.
It is for this reason that Jesus taught his disciples to "take no thought" and "stop worrying."
He also said, "Seek God's kingdom first, and all that you need will be added to you as well." (Luke
12:22-34). This was a revolutionary teaching that very few have been able to fully embrace. For
he was in essence saying that it is our own obsession with figuring everything out and making
our own way that keeps God from being able to move in our lives, not anything God has decided
to do or not do. By seeking God's kingdom first, we commit ourselves to a posture of resting
from our own labors. We focus our awareness on making our inner world quieter and less busy.
This, in turn, creates a vacuum, in which the Indwelling Spirit of God can have a chance to
become active and powerful on our behalf.
The third aspect of facilitating the process of giving God the chance to move in our lives -
trust - is understandably the most difficult to practice. This is because we have all been
thoroughly conditioned to believe that taking a stance of too much passivity in our Darwinian
society will lead to our ruin. We have been taught that those who desire success must pursue it
proactively through their own tenacity and strength. And for most people, putting their trust in an
unseen God is tantamount to putting their trust in a pipe dream. It is nothing more than an
excuse for laziness and irresponsibility.
This is tragic for this reason: trust is the key that brings God to the forefront of our
experience. In the Old Testament this is described in the first commandment given to Moses:
"You shall have no other gods before me," (Exodus 20:3) while in the New Testament we are
repeatedly exhorted to live by faith and not by sight.
It is an inescapable fact that we all must put our trust in something. If it is not in God, then it
is usually in some form of human power, whether in ourselves or others. But in trusting in man
instead of God, do we not make man into an idol? Do we not therefore have other gods before the
one true God? And if we continuously violate this important commandment, what happens? Who
suffers? Not God, but us.
For many, trusting in God seems like an impossible leap. But unless we learn to do this on
some level, we will never know God's active presence within us. Therefore let us begin with baby
steps. Let us begin with the willingness to trust. Let us turn from our habitual inclination to trust
in man and be willing to give God a chance.
God works in mysterious imperceptible ways. But the blessings that come into our lives as a
result of this divine initiative are not mysterious in the least. Sometimes they are downright
irrefutable. Thus even baby steps taken in this arena are greatly rewarded. Then before you
know it, your baby steps will turn into confident strides. And together with having established a
climate of quietness and rest in your inner world, you will find yourself greatly facilitating the
activity of God through the exercising of faith and unshakable trust.