How to Quiet Your Soul

by Andy Wood on May 1, 2013

in Allocating Your Resources, Five LV Laws, Leadership, Life Currency, LV Cycle, Principle of Freedom

MockeryDavid was on the chopping block.  His organization had just been hit by a hostile takeover attempt.  To say his leadership was being called into question is putting it mildly.  But even when people from within his own ranks were calling for his head, this exceptional leader emerged with a decisive plan and executed a remarkable comeback.

His first step:  He had to quiet his own soul.  Before he could silence his outer critics, he had to get his inner one to shut up.

Hannah was sitting in church one day, but the worship service was probably the last thing on her mind.  She carried an ache that is only known by those women who have longed desperately to have a child and were unable to.  It had reached a point way past sadness… Hannah was angry.  And her inner rage had to be dealt with.  So Hannah took decisive action.

Her first step:  She had to quiet her own soul.  Before she could make nice at the church house, she had to empty her heart of its poison.  A year later, she had a son.

You don’t have to be much of a Bible scholar to pick up that those two stories come from the Old Testament.  The first describes the time that David “encouraged himself in the Lord” (1 Samuel 30:6) and the second describes when Samuel’s mother “poured out her soul” to the Lord (1 Samuel 1:10).

A Common Theme

These aren’t just two random coincidences in the Bible.  They point to a common theme you can find in plenty of other lives and leaders.  Moses learned to quiet his soul against enormous opposition and the humanly impossible task of transforming a nation of slaves into a nation of conquerors.  In fact, the one time that Moses failed to do that, it cost him the Promised Land.

Nehemiah also learned to quiet his soul before he confronted his enemies, appealed to the king, or challenged his people.

Various psalmists, including David, speak of “lifting up my soul.”

I think they may be onto something.

Imagine a Baby in Distress

Ever deal with a screaming baby and you couldn’t figure out what was wrong?  Change the diaper, he keeps on crying.  Offer a bottle, same results.  Walk him, rock him, burp him, hold him, sing to him… nothing seems to work.  “If only he could tell me with words what’s wrong!”

(One day I’ll tell you about a solution for crying babies that works 100% of the time.  But that’s for another day.)

Your soul – your thoughts, feelings and desires – often gets distressed like a crying baby.  And it sometimes doesn’t have the words to express it – at least not right away.  And the effects aren’t pretty…

  • You’re distracted from what you’re trying to concentrate on.  Whaaaa!
  • You’re uncomfortable in what should be enjoyable situations.  Whaaaa!
  • You’re fixated on someone or something that has you stuck on angry.  Whaaaa!
  • You’re afraid or worried that something bad is about to happen.  Whaaaa!
  • You’re trapped between conflicting desires.  Whaaaa!
  • You’re paralyzed by grief or pain. Whaaaa!
  • You’re feeling pressured to make decisions before you are ready to do so.  Whaaaa!
  • You’re tempted to mentally check out by looking for the Easy Button or procrastinating.  Whaaaa!
  • You neglect important responsibilities because you are so distracted or hurt.  Whaaaa!
  • You’re losing the confidence of the people who look to you for leadership.  Whaaaa!

In leadership or life, you will never rise above your ability to quiet your own soul.  But this isn’t just a matter of mental gymnastics or emotional tricks.  Every one of the people I described above found the ability to quiet their souls in the presence of their God.

A Roadmap to the Quiet

Surely I have composed and quieted my soul;

Like a weaned child rests against his mother,

My soul is like a weaned child within me (Psalm 131:2).

You certainly can’t quiet the noise of the rabble around you until you still the noise inside you.  Let me show you one way to do it that has worked well for me.

Take a piece of paper and divide it into three sections.  OR, get three index cards.  I always use a single sheet of half-sized paper.

At the top of one section, write “Here’s what’s on my mind.”

At the top of the second section, write, “Here’s how I feel.”

At the top of the third section, write, “Here’s what I want.”

Since the heart is the wellspring of life (Proverbs 4:23), it’s always in motion, even when you are not conscious of it.  The point of this little exercise is to become more aware of what’s going on there.

Once you have sectioned off and labeled the paper or cards, make quick lists to fill them out.  Trust your instincts and first impressions here.  Dig only when you think you need to.

There is no set order to do this – I tend to be very random about how I fill these in.  That said, what I usually find is that the mental stuff is the shallowest, most surface-level stuff.  It usually involves things I have to get done or pressing issues.  Feelings are mid-range in depth, and may take more time to identify.  Desires – my truest, most honest desires – tend to be the deepest of all.

But all of that varies.  Every day is different.

Yes, I Actually Want You to Do This

OK, done yet?  This shouldn’t take very long at all.  If it’s more than a few minutes you’re probably thinking too hard.  Hmmm…. Or maybe the Lord has you searching out some true motive or something.  Anyway…

Now practice what the Bible calls “lifting up your soul to God.”  He sees and knows your heart already.  Lifting up your soul simply means putting it in His hands.

So you talk to him about the things that are on your mind.  You may ask for wisdom or power.  You may talk to him about somebody you love or maybe are frustrated with.  You may simply release whatever you’re thinking about to His care.

Then you talk to him about how you feel.  No use here pretending you don’t have feelings you aren’t proud of.  Nobody in the Bible ever did that.  They just came clean.  They told God exactly how they felt – joyful or jilted, adoring or angry – didn’t matter.  They gave God an earful of their feelings… and often in doing so, the feelings actually changed.

Then you tell God what you want.  If prayer is anything, it is asking and receiving.  So ask. The worst thing He can tell you is “no.”  Is it OK if the God of the Universe tells you, “No?” Then again, He did say, “Ask and you shall receive” (Matthew 7:7).  So ask.  Boldly.  Then release your desires into His care.

Don’t get in a hurry with all this… but then again, you may be surprised how quickly this works.  So how do you know if you have successfully lifted up your soul to God?

  • You’ll be breathing easier.
  • You’ll be calmer, more trusting in God’s presence.
  • You’ll have more clarity about the next right thing to do.
  • You’ll even be more at peace about unresolved issues because you have intentionally left them with the Lord.
  • Your heart will feel like it’s at rest – even if you have a thousand things to do.

Here’s how Jesus put it:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

I think He meant it.  So come.  What are you waiting (and weary) for?

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Martha Orlando May 1, 2013 at 1:51 pm

I am definitely going to try this exercise for a road map to quiet. My soul can always use some lifting up to the Lord!
Blessings, Andy!
Martha Orlando´s last blog post ..What Would You Do for Jesus?

Carrie May 2, 2013 at 12:59 am

Needed this today. Love the practical excersize.

Dee Baker May 2, 2013 at 10:30 am

Really enjoyed your discussion. That’s a very good exercise. I’ve recently found other thoughts on quieting your soul at a blog I occasionally read. It’s a Stillness Manifesto written by Dana Butler who writes a blog called Moments & Invitations. You can find her manifesto at http://www.momentsandinvitations.com/2013/04/for-when-your-dreams-are-dying-and-my.html

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