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My dear friend, author Sarah Swafford, is guest blogging for us today! Please read and enjoy Sarah’s post about cultivating interior stillness. —Lisa

Do you ever run into Scripture passages that touch your heart, but also make you pause to think, “But what does that actually mean?” I have always loved the verse Exodus 14:14: “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be still.” As a wife of sixteen years, mother of five children, speaker, author, and also a recovering firstborn perfectionistic people-pleaser control freak (you may know the type), let’s just say that I have always been a bit of a “doer” and a go-getter. I love all my roles in life, and I also love my prayer time and quiet and reading and learning. Navigating daily life (the big and small battles) can at times be exhausting as I try to balance and maintain peace in my own heart and in my family…and tend to the countless responsibilities and tasks that are inevitable each day. 

Recently, I felt compelled to dig into the above verse and pray through this gravitational pull I had to the word “still.” If you break open the book of Exodus, and in particular chapter 14, you will see that this verse is spoken by Moses to the Israelites right before the miracle of the parting of the Red Sea. Their backs were up against the sea and Pharaoh's army was charging. Can you imagine the sheer panic the Israelites must have felt in that moment?! Do you ever feel that way? Do you ever feel like life is coming down on you and you’re scrambling to “get it all done,” to protect, to guide, to reign in your emotions, to find the strength to do battle against the attacks that come at you from a million different directions? I know I do sometimes. 

“The Lord will fight for you…” Yes, that is what I want! “Please Lord, step in and go to battle for me! I am exhausted and scared and overwhelmed and…and…and…” Not only does the Lord desire to fight for you, He also longs for you to ask for His help. It is not a form of weakness, but a deep realization that we can’t do it all, and we can’t do it without Him. Just like the Israelites with their backs up against the sea with a charging army, they knew they needed a miracle. And the Lord showed up for them, and all they needed to do was be still.

You may be thinking, “Okay, Sarah, right, like I can just ‘be still’ and all the tasks, chores, emotional angst, etc., will just disappear.” I know I used to think like that, that being “still” was just a little too far out of reach for my life. But as I read the book of Exodus and prayed on these verses, I started to realize that I was looking at it merely as a matter of physical stillness—to just stand around and wait for the Lord to show up and help me get it all done or figure it all out. 

Through prayer, I started to realize that this verse really points (for you, me, and the Israelites) to an interior stillness, something that generally doesn’t come about overnight. If I put myself in the story, as an Israelite with my family watching Pharaoh's army charge, I’m sure I would panic and try to take matters into my own hands; but there would also be a realization that I have just watched the Lord deliver us from our enemies through a series of plagues and a host of other supernatural phenomena. As with the Israelites, so also with us: God is worthy of our trust. I have seen Him fight my battles. 

So how do we cultivate this interior stillness? To be able to stand with our backs against the sea and trust; to not panic, to not flail around in our lives and try to take matters into our own hands? That’s not an easy task. I don’t have all the answers, but I know we can turn to the Scriptures and saints for a wealth of wisdom, and they would point us to the power of daily prayer and quiet stillness with the Lord. I say “daily,” but what I really mean is hourly—in the moment—in the present moment where we encounter our struggles; this is the place of battle, when we need to turn to the Lord in trust. 

It is helpful to recall the ways He has battled for us in the past because this can give us confidence that He can and will do so again. Each time we do this, we slowly develop a habit of surrendering to Him again and again, cultivating a deep awareness of our need for God. By returning to Him over and over again in the small things every day, we develop the instinct to turn to Him when the big things come our way—like when Pharaoh's army is charging and there is nowhere to go. 

Is it easy to trust, to turn to God in every need, and cultivate interior stillness? No, but the alternative will always be chaos, self-reliance, panic, and fear, and that is no way to live. He wants to fight for you. He has already laid His life down for you. I promise you—He is trustworthy. We need only be still. 

Need more inspiration to move toward daily prayer and quiet stillness with the Lord? Check out the Walking with Purpose 365-day devotional, Be Still. And while you’re here, be sure to sign up to get our weekly blog delivered to your inbox!

Sarah Swafford is the founder of Emotional Virtue Ministries. She speaks internationally to people of all ages on a variety of topics such as: emotional virtue, dating and relationships, modesty of intentions, and interior confidence. She shares her message at school assemblies, retreats, rallies, and conferences around the world and is the author of Emotional Virtue: A Guide to Drama-Free Relationships. 

Sarah is a contributor to Chosen, Ascension Press’ confirmation program, and YDisciple’s True Beauty; she has also contributed videos for www.womenmadenew.com. Sarah is a proud team member of Chastity Project and speaks at Steubenville conferences in the United States and Canada.

Sarah also works on special projects for Catholic identity at her alma mater, Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, where she resides with her wonderful husband, Dr. Andrew Swafford, and their children: Thomas, Fulton, Cate, Kolbe, and John Paul. You can find more information about Sarah and Emotional Virtue Ministries at www.emotionalvirtue.com

Ah, summer 2021. A time that will forever be remembered as the post-quarantine summer. The world is opening back up again, and some people are making up for lost time as soon as possible.[1] Others are experiencing what some experts are calling “re-entry anxiety.”[2] 

I wonder where you fall on this spectrum as things begin to return to normal. Statistics have shown that women were especially hit hard during the pandemic with rates of depression, anxiety, and alcohol consumption skyrocketing.[3] For me, I’m somewhere between making up for lost time (“Hello, live music—I have MISSED YOU!”) and experiencing re-entry anxiety (“Do I need a mask in this store?” “Can we hug now?”). Our lives look different than they did a year ago, and our habits have likely changed as we have learned to cope with All. The. Things. 

In John 10:10, Jesus told us, “I came that you might have life, and have it abundantly.” I feel like my life during the past year definitely wasn’t abundant, but that this year has potential. How about you? Do you feel like your life is abundant right now? 

So, what is an “abundant” life? I think having an abundant life means having a life you love, not one that you want to run away from. I also think the abundant life Jesus spoke of is offered to us here and now, and isn’t related to our state in life or how much we are “making up for lost time” post-pandemic. This abundant life is one of peace, joy, and grace. It sounds lovely, in theory, but how do we attain it? I believe it requires a choice—a conscious decision to get back to the basics.

“Do the work you did at first.” (Revelation 2:5)

In his message to Ephesus in the book of Revelation, John praises the members for their works and virtues, but admonishes them to repent and return to their former devotion. 

This makes me think that the abundant life (having a life that we love) and doing the work we did at first (getting back to the basics of our faith) are intrinsically linked. Will you take a moment and pause with me to reflect on the last time your life felt full and abundant? What were you doing then? When was the last time you felt close to God? What are you not doing now that you were doing then? What habits have you dropped? 

Summer is a great time to reset our calendars and our priorities. Here are some basic things I’ve consciously decided to re-focus on in order to live the abundant life Jesus promised us. Will you join me in getting back to the basics this summer? 

“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” —St. Francis of Assisi

As we re-emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, we have some choices to make. Don’t be swept back into the hurried life you had before, and know that you don’t have to carry bad habits from quarantine with you. You can build a life you love—starting now—one step at a time. The abundant life Jesus offers is waiting for you. 

 

[1] Jordan Valinsky, “7 signs that summer is about to be lit,” CNN Business, May 29, 2021,  https://www.cnn.com/2021/05/29/business/summer-2021-back-to-normal/index.html.
[2] Maya Kachroo-Levine, “How to Work Through Your Re-entry Anxiety, According to a Licensed Therapist,” Travel+Leisure, May 28, 2021, https://www.travelandleisure.com/travel-tips/covid-reentry-anxiety.
[3] Dawn Sugarman and Shelly Greenfield, “Women, alcohol, and COVID-19,” Harvard Health Blog, April 6, 2021, https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/women-alcohol-and-covid-19-2021040622219.

 

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