Quiet Lake
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Stopping vs. Pausing

In our house, we play a lot of video games.  Over time, we have found a balance (although gaming provided a fun family activity while being stuck at home last year, so there are upsides), but gaming-related phrases are often part of our conversations.

In fact, there was a point where, when it was time to eat, my wife wouldn’t tell my sons to stop playing.  Instead, she would tell them to “pause” what they were doing (whether electronic or otherwise).  There are some games that can’t be paused (and a family member found to have knowingly started one of those close to dinner time may have to go hungry for a while), but for the most part, I think that all of us can appreciate the introduction of the pause button.  Whether it’s a show that we’re watching when the phone rings, or a song that is just getting to the good part when someone asks us a question, being able to temporarily suspend the action is often helpful.

In our busy lives, we often want other things to be stopped (or paused) for our own benefit.  We would like others to suspend what they are doing, in order to listen to us (or to help us out).  We want to be able to resume a podcast or video when we want to, after taking a break for a snack.  We sometimes even expect others to put their needs and goals on hold for months or years, and wait until we’re ready to meet them where they are.

However, in the Kingdom of God, we are the ones who are sometimes called to step off of the treadmill of life.  Constantly going and going and going with activity just isn’t what we are commanded to do.

I’ve paused walking on a literal treadmill before, such as when I find that I need to re-tie my shoes.  As is turns out, the treadmill doesn’t mind, and it keeps going while I stand on the rail or to the side.  For those who have found the blessings of pausing to spend time with God, I think that they find that the rest of the world still keeps going, too!

When we are certain that we cannot take a break (especially for something that God is calling us to do), I think that the first step is to consider what it is that we are stopping.  Yes, there are good things in our lives, whether taking care of friends or family, earning a living, or taking care of our bodies.  However, good can be the enemy of great, and if Jesus Christ himself (i.e., God the Son) took time to be with God the Father, it seems pretty prideful of us to think that all of our other activities are so important that they can’t be set aside for a while to spend time with God, just like He did.

Yes, there are seasons of life where it seems like we are going in a dozen different directions at once.  As the food critic said in the movie Ratatouille, though, sometimes we need a bit of perspective.  Will another hour of work bring us closer to God?  Will still another activity (even a church activity) show lost souls the way to Jesus?  When we set aside busyness for some quiet time with God, I’m pretty sure that the old hymn got it right when it said that, “the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace” (ref. lyrics at https://www.hymnal.net/en/hymn/h/645).  In fact, I’m sure of it, as I have compared my own choices to do “more things” against superior times of peace and quiet with God.

Remember, when we give everything to God, He often returns some of it for us to use, as part of His plan.  I’m not suggesting that you need to become a hermit (although those who spend long amounts of time in solitude with God have learned – and written down – some pretty amazing things), but the first step is to yield all of our time and commitments to God, and then we can see which ones He wants us to keep.

The other consideration here is whether the activities that fill our schedules need to be 1) fully stopped, 2) merely paused, or 3) faithfully continued.  We shouldn’t ever stop living for Jesus, or loving others, for instance.  Those things are always appropriate.  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 tells us to “pray continually”, so there’s no need to stop talking with God.  Revelation 4:8 talks about beings who never stop proclaiming the holiness of God, so praising Him is something we can continue in, too.  There are plenty of elements in our lives that we shouldn’t stop.

In contrast to these “eternal” or “continual” habits, though, other things may need to be set aside – whether temporarily or permanently – to make room for time with God, or anything else that He knows will be better than what we are in the habit of doing.

Now, I think that the idea of stopping something can be intimidating, though (although there are some things that we should clearly just stop: see Luke 8:52, John 2:16, Romans 14:13, 1 Corinthians 14:20, and 1 Corinthians 15:34, for instance).  When that happens, If we’re not comfortable removing things from our lives in order to take a breather for our physical, mental, and spiritual health, could we just pause a few of them?  How about these suggestions?

  • Trade 10 minutes of sleep to get up a little earlier (or go to bed later) and read a chapter from the Bible.  The rest of your day (or your sleep) will still be there when you’re done.
  • Take 5 minutes out of a busy day to stop and think about what you have read from the Bible or heard from a sermon or lesson recently.  All those chores will wait.
  • Skip the first article that you find in your favorite news feed (or radio station), and spend 2 minutes thanking God for loving you.  Trust me, there are more stories waiting when you’re done.

So, whether you pause or stop, I hope that you will seek out ways to take a breather today, getting a recharge and refreshment as you continue in what is most important.  After all, there’s no time to smell the roses (or appreciate anything else that God has done) if we’re rushing around too much to enjoy them.

“Listen to this, Job;
stop and consider God’s wonders.
Do you know how God controls the clouds
and makes his lightning flash?
Job 37:14‭-‬15 NIV


Originally written to accompany the July 2021 sermon series, “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb”, at First Christian Church, Canton, OH.  Republished by permission.

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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