I’ll spare you the “2020 amiright?” jokes because we all know this has already been one strange and difficult year so far. As I recently mentioned on the blog (after a month-long writing sabbatical), I’ve personally been in a season of quiet.
This is not an unusual pattern for me. When a Super Busy Life Season™ is happening (especially one with a major life change, like having a baby or building a house), I tend to focus on getting through the circumstance itself and leave the emotional processing for later, after the action phase is completed. Does anyone else do that?
Reading back over my journals throughout the years, I can always tell when something big is happening in my life because the entry dates will be further apart. And then eventually things calm down and my heart will settle enough to begin writing again everyday…thus, my internal processing happens in the quiet times. All of that to say (thanks for letting me psychoanalyze myself for a second there, ha!), I’ve been in a season of quietly mulling things over with pencil in hand and the Bible at my side. I’m so thankful that the Good Shepherd leads us to quiet places when we need it.
Quiet Seasons & Culture Clash
The problem with being in a quiet season during times of social unrest is the battle of the mind and heart that can ensue, and let me be frank in saying that I have been fighting this battle. Have you?
When the world is demanding PR statements from individuals and culture is becoming more dangerous to navigate than a landmine, it can render a person almost frozen. Do I try to engage the broader conversation with nuance? Do I make flat statements and brace myself for the onslaught of disagreement? Do I sign off of the internet entirely?! (These are questions that I ask myself almost daily…)
But in my gut, I know that none of these is the right way forward. And so, in times of uncertainty, I do what I know how to do. I go to the scripture and I ask the Lord for wisdom. I’d like to share a few verses from the text that I’ve been meditating on this month.
Amos 5:13 says,
“Therefore, the wise person will keep silent at such a time, for the days are evil.”
This is an interesting verse when couched in the context of the book of Amos, a man who is seeking a kind of social justice from Israel. (And even in that phrase, I am fighting the urge to spend a paragraph describing the nuance there. *sigh*)
A Bit of History
Amos is one of the earlier minor prophets of the Old Testament and was a humble fellow of low social position. According to the first verse (1:1), Amos prophesied during the reigns of Uzziah over Judah (792–740 b.c.) and Jeroboam II over Israel (793–753). Despite his lack of political power, God called Amos to speak out against Israel’s idolatry, extravagant indulgence in luxurious living, immorality, corruption of judicial procedures, and oppression of the poor. As a result of their behavior (and lack of repentance following Amos’ words), God would soon bring about the Assyrian captivity of the northern kingdom (722–721).
The word of the Lord to Israel (through Amos) declares what God is requiring from His people (5:5,6):
“Seek me and live;
but do not seek Bethel,
and do not enter into Gilgal
or cross over to Beersheba;
for Gilgal shall surely go into exile,
and Bethel shall come to nothing.”
Seek the Lord and live,
lest he break out like fire in the house of Joseph,
and it devour, with none to quench it for Bethel,
O you who turn justice to wormwood
and cast down righteousness to the earth!”
And the words continue, like a holy fire blazing through a parched forest. Amos cries out against Israel’s habit of making a big religious show out of their worship while neglecting their neighbor in need (5:11, 12; 21-23). He rails against those who reject a righteous reprimand or the words of truth (5:10). Chapter 6 goes on in much the same way, with warning after warning from Amos pleading for an affluent and self-loving nation to turn from their sin and seek the Lord.
The Advocacy of a Quiet Life
Therefore, when Amos prophetically observes that the wise person will be quiet during times of severe judgment (5:13), I can’t help but sit up and pay attention. Perhaps he is simply stating that the wise have no choice but to live quietly and humbly, despite the chaos and evil swirling around them. This has been true of many times in human history and might be of our time as well, but I also think there is a deeper hope to his statement.
The crux of Amos’ ministry was to call Israel to repentance–to come back to her first love. God was watching His people decline into moral sloth and spiritual deviancy, so He was expressing righteous jealousy to get her back. He says plainly, “Seek me and live!” He is demanding, with eyes of fire, to be the one and only God of Israel.
As you read through Amos 5 and 6, notice the examples that God gives for ways that His people can actively worship and seek Him:
- Do not go back to the religious shrines of the past. Seek God directly, seek Godself (5:5, 6)
- Stop rejecting righteous justice (5:7)
- Uphold those who administer righteous sentencing to wrong-doers (5:10a)
- Embrace those who speak with integrity (5:10b)
- Stop oppressing the poor, taking bribes, and exacting harsh taxes (5:11, 12)
- Seek good and not evil (5:14)
- Hate evil and love good (5:15)
- Establish justice at the gate/city court (5:15)
When I read over this list, it is apparent that “seeking the Lord” involves some action. Amos observes that the righteous person might live quietly during times of evil, but that does not mean that the righteous are inactive, passive, or apathetic. Quite the opposite!
Just as Paul encouraged the believers in 1 Thessalonians 4, we too may “make it our ambition to live quiet lives” in service to God and our neighbors. This doesn’t mean that we will never speak up, or go to court, or even avoid conflict, but it does indicate the state of our hearts before the Lord. If we should strive for anything, it is to be quiet before Him, to make room for the work of the Spirit in our hearts, and to live lives of holiness every day.
Quiet. Stillness. (Reverence.)
Listening. Obeying. (Trusting.)
I know it feels counter-intuitive, counter-culture, and counter-just about everything natural that we know. But if this humble position feels strange, that’s probably a good indicator that we are walking by the Spirit and not our own feeble wisdom! Instead of empty promises, let us offer ourselves as living sacrifices–every part of our life exposed to the heat of a Holy God who longs to make us pure and shining lights (So bright that we light the way for a world drowning in darkness!)
And this kind of work -this internal, holy work- requires a still and ready posture to receive. Know, dear reader, that there is purpose in walking the quiet path. I am there, along with so many others. If you are in a quiet season too, remember that the strong gaze of our God has not looked away. He sees us. If we put our hope in Him, we will not be put to shame.