Lately I have been enthralled with a couple of the Alaska shows on television as they depict the last true frontier and what life is like living in the “bush.” At first, I could hardly even imagine living a life like that; no electricity, hunting for every meal, using outhouses, sleeping huddled together with a large family, warding off bears, and not to mention, my anxiety over what I would do in the event of an emergency being an hour’s boat ride away from any outside help. Yet even in the face of some of these perceived obstacles, there is simplicity in this type of life. I see how living with simplicity does not necessarily mean things are easy or that they don’t require hard work (i.e. building your own home from scratch with minimal tools), but the distraction of unimportant things are absent. I definitely find this to be true in my own life, as I whittle down the unnecessary complexities I create for myself and my family.
Over the last couple of years, the Lord has been simplifying my life through various circumstances, some out of necessity and some out of choice. On a journey towards financial freedom, we made one car work for over a year, we sold our home and moved to a small, one bathroom farmhouse, and we said no to more things than we said yes to. The Lord has called us to be good stewards of our finances, but He has also called us to be good stewards of our lives. When our lives are complicated, it leaves little room for us to have any kind of eternal perspective or for us to see outside of our own busy lives. In the last few months as I have processed this, it’s been like an onion peeling back each layer and finding out new things about myself and about the Lord.
When our lives are complicated, it leaves little room for us to have any kind of eternal perspective or for us to see outside of our own busy lives.
Living in simplicity in a lot of ways has helped me to have a whole new appreciation for the smallest, silliest blessings. I can either choose to curse the one bathroom situation or I can choose JOY because of the simple pleasure of only cleaning one. I can choose to grumble about the inconvenience of having one car, or I can choose gratefulness for the ways the Lord has provided. I can choose to view space as cramped or I can choose to view it as cozy. Just last week we pulled our middle son out of preschool, not because he/we didn’t like it, but because it just wasn’t necessary, and right now, our money is better going to other places. A few months ago, I had a sweet friend come help me clean out the majority of my closet, getting rid of old, worn out things, and leaving just a few staples. There is so much freedom living life this way, not to mention so much easier and simpler.
Living in simplicity is making a choice to do away with excess and to be grateful for the things that matter most and carry eternal value. It brings to life the verse in Matthew 6:20 that says, “but lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys.” Similarly, 1 Thessalonians 4:11 encourages us to “aspire to live quietly, and to mind [our] own affairs, and to work with [our] hands.” This type of thought is so counter cultural to what seems to be celebrated today.
The Lord has called us to be good stewards of our finances, but He has also called us to be good stewards of our lives.
Through this process of tangibly simplifying our lives, the Lord has been showing me lately how complicated my heart remains. I tend to take on the burdens of everyone around me, trying to fix whatever’s wrong, make it better, make it go away, but truthfully, anxiety and worry can consume me when left unchecked. Like rocks being stacked one on top of another, it’s only a matter of time until the tower begins to wobble and eventually crash. Last week it all came crashing down. I left Bible study early as I could feel it all bubbling up, and being utterly vulnerable, I was on the verge of a panic attack. My complicated heart – far from the simplicity of loving God and loving others, resting and abiding in Him – was exposed.
I am beginning to see that simplistic living is really only the first step; the real work of allowing the Lord to simplify my heart, has begun to take root. When we create simplicity in our lives, it certainly promotes simplicity in our hearts. But when my heart remains complicated, everything spills out of that and affects everyone around me. I am a stressed out, anxious, worried mess of a mom, wife, friend and daughter when my mind and heart swirl uncontrollably. In Philippians 4:6-8, Paul writes, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the PEACE of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally brothers, whatever is TRUE, whatever is HONORABLE, whatever is JUST, whatever is PURE, whatever is LOVELY, whatever is COMMENDABLE, if there is any EXCELLENCE, if there is anything WORTHY OF PRAISE, think about these things.” This has become the filter for my heart as the waves of worry and the complexities of life roll in, I can ask myself, “Is it true? Is it honorable? Is it just or right? Is it pure or lovely?” There comes a point that I have to put an end to the crazy train of thoughts bulldozing their way through my heart and mind. Without this grid for simplicity of heart, my flesh will continue to unnecessarily over complicate things, spiraling me into dark, uncharted waters.
I am beginning to see that simplistic living is really only the first step; the real work of allowing the Lord to simplify my heart, has begun to take root.
When our hearts and lives are simplified, everything that muddles seeing God is removed. But when we become distracted by all the glossy things this world has to offer, when we become so enamored with the next latest and greatest, and when we complicate our lives with busyness and worries, we often miss HIM. Although my earthly “stuff” has been simplified these last couple years, I have had to confront my heart issues of worry about the future, anxiety, and fear of losing control. Proverbs 12:25 states, “Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.” We do not have to carry the weight of anxiety or be bogged down with worry. We can give our burdens to our loving Father, who will bear them and give us a spirit of peace, a peace that surpasses all understanding. For me, there are days that this is a moment-to-moment surrender, choosing to give Him everything. I have to willingly make a choice to allow a sovereign, all knowing God do what only He can do in my heart, my life, and in all those around me. He is much better at being God than I could ever pretend to be.
Matthew 11:28-30 utters Jesus’ precious words to us, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” How will you allow God, who knows you inside and out, to simplify and de-clutter your heart? What are some tangible ways you can begin to practice simplicity in your life this week? What might God be trying to tell you or show you as you actively seek simplicity?
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Image Credit: Charamelody, Creative Commons