In my early twenties, I sat in a counselor’s office as she drew a horizontal line across her paper. Below it, she added arrows reaching toward the line but never quite touching it. She said the horizontal line represented my expectations of myself and the arrows my actual efforts—what I could realistically do as a human.
She explained that much of my anxiety came from the gap between what I expected of myself and reality. Until I stopped putting so much pressure on myself, I would continue to experience anxiety. I wish I could say I walked out of her office and applied her wisdom right away. But it took many more years, as well as a bout of serious burnout, before I really began to ease up on myself. That’s why, when I read chapter four of 1 Thessalonians, I’m pleasantly surprised and relieved.
Make it your goal to . . . Paul, Silas, and Timothy pause as they write to the new believers in Thessalonica. What should they give the Thessalonians as a goal? Imagine for a moment how our modern world would finish that sentence:
Make it your goal to be busy all the time.
Make it your goal to be successful and productive.
Make it your goal to look good.
Think of how some contemporary spiritual leaders might finish it too. Or how you might finish it yourself on the days when you feel not good enough:
Make it your goal to help everyone.
Make it your goal to change the whole world.
Make it your goal to be a spiritual hero.
What Paul, Silas, and Timothy decide to say is surprising: “Make it your goal to live a quiet life” (1 Thessalonians 4:11). Our anxiety can come from many sources, including goals God never intended us to pursue. When we take these on, we continually feel like we’re falling short, which, of course, is anxiety provoking.
My husband Mark and I now have 1 Thessalonians 4:11 displayed in our office. We’re both entrepreneurs, and it would be easy to just keep pushing ourselves harder. We’ve found choosing a quiet life is far more challenging than choosing a busy, overwhelming one.
So what does a “quiet life” mean? It’s easy to think it’s about a lack of something. Fewer activities. Not as many commitments. Less noise. That can certainly be part of it, especially in seasons when we need restoration, but a quiet life is really about abiding in the presence of Someone. It’s about grace silencing the voices in our minds that pressure us to do, be, and have more. In their place, we begin to experience the joy, peace, and contentment only Jesus can give.
I’ll be the first to raise my hand and say this is hard for me. I’m still figuring out how to recognize when it gets loud inside. I’m practicing not proving my worth but receiving it. I’m understanding I don’t need pressure to motivate me and it’s okay to not meet expectations. You too?
Then let’s keep learning together. Let’s remember how much we’re loved. Let’s make it our goal to lead a quiet life.
MORE FOR YOU
Prayer: Dear God, You never put pressure on me. Instead, You set me free. When I start taking on goals You never intended, help me trade them for Your grace. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Download: My new devotional, What Your Mind Needs for Anxious Moments: A 60-day Guide to Take Control of Your Thoughts, is now available! Today’s post is an excerpt from the devo… If you’d like to read more, enter your email here and you’ll receive the first three devotionals for FREE. If you’re among the 1 in 5 Americans who have anxiety, it’s my hope that this will be an encouragement and kind resource for you.