There were a thousand thoughts rushing through my head, all competing for my full attention. A throng of to-do lists, task lists, scheduled appointments, unscheduled phone calls, urgent emails, and a pile of paperwork surrounded me and closed in for the kill. For days, it seemed like the earth had fallen silent in the absence of any movement whatsoever. Now, there is an overwhelming sense of urgency coming from a hundred different directions. Just a few days ago, I prayed that something, anything, would give way or show some sign that life still existed outside my office window. Today, I am bombarded with a fury of people needing me to help them conquer the world. At this moment, I would give anything to just hunker down back into the quiet solitude of yesterday’s uneventful doldrums.
It seems like no matter who we are, life comes at us in overwhelming huge waves of mini-emergencies, excessive amounts of opportunities, and tasks to accomplish followed by what feels like an eternity of waiting for the next onslaught of excitement. The problem is that no matter how smart, motivated, or accomplished we are, our brains don’t cope well with the extremes of boredom and uncertainty or with vast amounts of information and needs being fired at us. On one end, we slump into self-loathing and even depression convinced that the world has forgotten us and left us behind. One the other end, we tear ourselves up trying to balance the world on our shoulders and trying to figure out who nominated us to become Captain America.
I am still trying to comprehend why life is lived out in such extremes. What I do know, having spent plenty of time at both ends of boredom and uncertainty as well as feeling panicked by too much responsibility all at once, is that just because life works in extremes does not mean that we have to let our brain operate there. Constantly operating out of panic or dread is no way to live life. There is a time and place for everything. The keyword here is “time” or “timing.” Timing really is everything and we seem to get it all mixed up. When we find ourselves surrounded by solitude, we do everything in our power to keep ourselves busy, to appear important, and to convince ourselves that we are being productive because we are keeping our schedule full. On the other hand, as soon as things start to pick up and speed up, all we want to do is find a hiding place so that we can plan, organize, and figure out how to tackle everything that is in front of us.
Having gone through this cycle multiple times in my life, sometimes with months or even years separating the two extremes, I now realize just how ironically backward we do things. Solomon tells us in the Bible that there is a “Time and place for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). The prophet Jeremiah also tells us that God has a plan for us. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11). Part of God’s plan is that there is a time and place for everything. We need to learn to recognize what stage of the plan we are in at any given moment of our lives. By living in faith that God will care for us and take care of us, we can begin to take in each moment in our lives and recognize the timing and purpose of that moment.
Times of silence are perfect for planning, rejuvenating, and organizing our lives so that we will be prepared for the next stage in the cycle of ups and downs. Our knee-jerk reaction is to try to control everything and when that does not work, we blame God for not opening the floodgates to our success. But all the while, Jesus has always told us not to worry but to believe in His timing. “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can anyone of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:25-34)
Even if you don’t yet fully believe that God cares for you, previous experience should prove that worrying in slow times only makes you less prepared to tackle the good times head-on. We miss opportunities when things are going well because so often we forget to use the slow times to prepare ourselves for what is to come. I believe that God proves his love for us through the cycles of life. I believe that both the ups and the downs are a testament to God’s perfect plan and timing. But, even if you can’t wrap your head and heart around this fact, the cycle will continue. It is up to you to recognize that timing really is everything and what we do with the time or moment or stage that we are in will dictate how successful, stressed, abundant, depressed, or complete our lives are.