Toward a Quiet Soul

Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me?

Have you ever felt disquieted?

Three times the psalmist asked himself why he is cast down and disquieted (Psalm 42:5, 11 and 43:5). The ESV says “in turmoil”; the NASB uses “disturbed.” Other translations say “sad,” “restless,” “upset.” But “disquieted” aptly includes all kinds of disturbances.

The Hebrew word translated “disquieted” in those two psalms includes these definitions:

“To murmur, growl, roar, cry aloud, mourn, rage, sound, make noise, tumult, be clamorous, be disquieted, be loud, be moved, be troubled, be in an uproar, to roar, to be in a stir, be in a commotion, to be boisterous, be turbulent.”

Ever felt any of those?

Each of those times the psalmists asks himself why he is disquieted, he answers himself, “hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.

That’s the course of many of the psalms. The writer has no peace of mind for various reasons: enemies are after him; sin weighs on his conscious; wicked people are prospering at the expense of the righteous. I love the honesty of the psalmists’ emotions as they lay out their dilemmas and questions before God. And gradually, as they remind themselves of what they know about their God and put their situation in the proper perspective, their souls return to peace, to rest.

Psalm 107 speaks of a physical storm, but there are parallels to a spiritual, emotional, or mental storm as well.:

Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven. Psalm 107:28-30, KJV

We’re always glad when peace and quietness reign after any storm.

A quiet soul is not a result of Zen-like tranquility or an emptying of the mind. It’s not a mystical state. It comes from deliberately, consciously reminding ourselves of God’s love, wisdom, promises, and power and resting in Him. Whatever we’re going through, God has a reason for it and will give us grace to deal with it.

But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. Psalm 131:2, ESV

It’s fine to pray for calm circumstances.

I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 1 Timothy 2:1-2, ESV

God doesn’t always remove the problems, but He gives His peace. I once saw a saying on a plaque that said, “Sometimes God calms the storm: sometimes He lets the storm rage and calms His child.”

But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil. Proverbs 1:33, KJV

A quiet soul is not passive, but actively resting in God.

For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” But you were unwilling…Isaiah 30:15, ESV

A quiet soul can go from God’s Word and prayer into everyday life, still trusting and resting.

But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one. 1 Thessalonians 4:10b-13, ESV

For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. 2 Thessalonians 3:11-12, ESV

But let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious, 1 Peter 3:4, ESV

Having a quiet spirit does not mean one is silent or mousy: it doesn’t quell exuberance. It’s a quietness of rest and peace. It’s not stirred up in a wrong way over the wrong things.

It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord. Lamentations 3:26, KJV

And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever. . Isaiah 32:17, ESV

Sometimes God has to disquiet us before He can quiet us. Sometimes we need to be shaken out of our complacency or chastened. Jonah was disturbed at God’s calling for him and tried to run away. God dealt with him rather severely. In Jonah’s prayer in the fish’s belly, he laments:

For you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me; all your waves and your billows passed over me (verse 3, ESV).

The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head at the roots of the mountains (verses 5-6, ESV).

But when his “life was fainting away,” he “remembered the Lord” (verse 7), prayed, thanked God, and promised to fulfill his vows. God delivered him, and Jonah went on to obey God. Unfortunately, Jonah continued to have attitude problems and never did seem to come to truly rest in the Lord, at least in this book. The end result of chastening rightly received is “the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:5-13).

I originally wanted to publish this post last week, but felt strongly impressed to go with a different one instead. I think one of the reasons for waiting was that God knew I would come across two quotes in my reading this week that tied in with this topic.

H. A. Ironside said in his book Full Assurance:

As one walks with God, and learns to suffer and endure as seeing Him who is invisible, eternal things become more real than the things of time and sense, which are everything to the merely natural man. Thus there comes to the heart a trustful calm, a full assurance, based not alone on the revealed Word but upon a personal knowledge of communion with God, which gives implicit confidence as to this present life and all that lies ahead. (pp. 59-60, emphasis mine).

Then the ESV Study Bible says of Psalm 62:1-2:

The description of a trusting soul is there to set an ideal for God’s people: each one should aspire to this kind of quiet faith (p. 1011).

And the introduction to Psalm 63 in the ESV Study Bible says:

This psalm opens as if it were a lament, seeking God in a time of trouble; and yet the overall flow of the song is one of confident expectation. Hence it is best to see the psalm as enabling each of God’s people to develop confidence during their times of trouble (p. 1012).

Whatever the source of our trouble – God’s chastening or growing us, outward circumstances or inward turmoil – we can rest in His presence, wisdom, love, care, and provision.

The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness;  he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. Zephaniah 3:17, ESV

He Will Quiet You

In this life, there are times of tribulation;
Hearts are filled with deep despair.
Heartache and pain and troubles abound;
Is there comfort anyway?
In your times of trial,
Lift your eyes to the Father above
He alone is the Answer,
The Source of please and love.

He will quiet you,
He will quiet you.
He will take delight in you,
And quiet you with his love.
His plans for you are perfect
And all His ways are best.
He will give you rest
As He quiets you with his love

He longs to take you into his arms,
And gently shelter you.
Only He can calm the storms in your life,
And give you peace anew.
And He will rejoice,
He will rejoice over you with singing.
He will rejoice,
He will rejoice over you with singing.
The Creator of all will lift up His voice;
And over your life
He will sing and rejoice!
He will rejoice!
He will rejoice!

He will quiet you,
He will quiet you.
He will take delight in you
And quiet you with his love.

His plans for you are perfect
And all His ways are best.
He will give you rest
As He quiets you with his love.
Come to Him for rest
Let Him quiet you with his love.

~ Words and music by Cindy Berry

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Monday, Tell His Story, Let’s Have Coffee, Porch Stories, Wise Woman, Faith on Fire)

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Book Review: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

QuietLast year I kept seeing Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain mentioned favorably all over the blogosphere, and being an introvert myself (I got 11 out of 12 questions as an introvert on the Quiet Quiz!) and highly intrigued, I put it on my Christmas wishlist.

The author traces the history from a Culture of Character, when disciple, honor, and quietly doing the right thing were valued, to the Culture of Personality, where being likeable and presenting oneself well emerged as the more valued qualities (fueled, among other things, by the transition from an agricultural society to an industrial one and the need for salespeople), to these days esteeming charisma and overt extroversion. She draws examples from the worlds of business, education, and politics to show that Western society really is set up for the Extroverted Ideal, and she cites numerous scientific studies to show that introverts aren’t just shy (not all introverts are), but that they have physical, neurological differences that affect how they process things, and they also have many valuable qualities..

I was amazed at the many ways in which the world is indeed set up for more extroverted personalities, from businesses which put workers together in the same room to brainstorm and feed off each other’s energy rather than giving them quiet offices in which to think, to classrooms set up for groups, where contributing to class discussions is highly prized (she cites one classroom sign of “‘Rules for Group Work,’ including, ‘You can’t ask a teacher for help unless everyone in your group has the same question'” [p. 77] Talk about snuffing out individuality!)

The author isn’t saying that introverts are better than extroverts, but that they have valued gifts and abilities that society can and should make provision for, and that it is okay to be an introvert. Part of a larger quote from Allen Shawn says, “A species in which everyone was General Patton would not succeed, any more than a race in which everyone was Vincent Van Gogh” (p. vii). Both personality types are needed.

But she acknowledges that it’s not good for introverts to sit in a corner all our lives and never extend ourselves, and she suggests ways to interact in an extroverted world, like a popular public speaker who skips the social venues while on a speaking engagement to walk quietly by a river or hide out in the bathroom to “recharge” between sessions.

Probably one of the most helpful sections for me was a study of “highly reactive” babies. When disturbed in some way, the highly reactive babies would flail their arms, kick, and cry, but the other babies seemed to take everything in stride. I thought at first that the highly reactive babies would be the extroverts, since they were more vocal and expressive, but they became introverts. They reacted “not because they were extroverts in the making, but because their little bodies reacted strongly — to new sights, sounds, and smells. The quiet infants were silent not because they were future introverts — just the opposite — but because they had nervous systems unmoved by ” such stimulation (p. 102). As they grew older this high reactivity manifested itself in more stressful reactions to new people and situations, while extroverted people were easy-going. Turns out something called the amygdala in the brain affects our reactions. This came to a crux for me after TM: in even normal, not too busy and loud public settings (like a restaurant), I’d feel as if I were on sensory overload. Looking back, I can see I have pretty much always been this way. I think it just came to the forefront then because my mind and emotions were tied up with recovering from illness. Sometimes I’ve been stressed over my ability to get too easily stressed and wondered why I couldn’t take things in stride as easily as other people. It’s nice to know there is a reason! That doesn’t mean, of course, I should just give way to that and not seek God’s help as well as practical ways to react more calmly, but it does help to know it’s part of my make-up that I need to learn to deal with and not a character flaw.

Cain also dispels some myths about introverts: they are not all shy, they are not all bookish, they are not all sensitive, they are not anti-social — of the last, she says “introverts and extroverts are differently social” (p. 226). “When extroverts show up at a party, everyone knows they are present,” (p. 227), while an introvert will be quietly talking with one or two other people. Both do need and value intimacy, but introverts will likely have a few very close friends and small get-togethers rather than a lot of friends and big parties.

A chapter on communication, especially in relationships, yielded this helpful quote: “It can be hard for extroverts to understand how badly introverts need to recharge at the end of a busy day. We all empathize with a sleep-deprived mate who comes home from work too tired to talk, but it’s harder to grasp that social over-stimulation can be just as exhausting. It’s also hard for introverts to understand just how hurtful their silence can be…whatever the reasons for these differences in social needs…what’s important is that it is impossible to work through them” (p. 228).

This chapter (“The Communication Gap”) as well as the next on dealing with introverted children in ways that help and encourage them were probably the most helpful and valuable to me. It broke my heart to read one one set of highly extroverted parents seeking “treatment” for their very introverted son because they thought something was wrong with him. Cain shares a lot of ideas for both teachers and parents about ways to recognize an introverted child’s gifts and abilities and to help them in areas where they fall short, like social skills.

This book is written from a secular point of view, so there is a small smattering of words like “hell” sprinkled throughout, and I wouldn’t agree with the evolutionary reasoning behind some of the studies quoted. Some of the religious references are a bit “off,” such as this one: “The Western God is assertive, vocal, and dominant; his son Jesus is kind and tender, but also a charismatic, crowd-pleasing man of influence (Jesus Christ Superstar)” (p. 189). At first I was astounded that she would quote Jesus Christ Superstar as a reference, but then I thought maybe she was just citing it as one example of popular perception (though a mistaken one, in my opinion. Jesus was kind and tender, yes, but I wouldn’t call him charismatic and crowd-pleasing. Crowds did follow him, but for different reasons. But that’s another subject for another day).

But despite those caveats, I found this a fascinating and very helpful book in many ways. I would recommend it to both introverts and extroverts!

(This will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)