Good morning! I hope this day finds you and your family well, and I want you to know that you are in my prayers daily during this difficult time.
I invite you to take a few moments with me to reflect on today’s Upper Room Devotional below — as well as on the theology woven into “It is well with my soul.”
Confident Plea for Deliverance from Enemies
To the leader: with stringed instruments. A Psalm of David.
1 Answer me when I call, O God of my right!
You gave me room when I was in distress.
Be gracious to me, and hear my prayer.
2 How long, you people, shall my honor suffer shame?
How long will you love vain words, and seek after lies? Selah
3 But know that the Lord has set apart the faithful for himself;
the Lord hears when I call to him.
4 When you are disturbed,[a] do not sin;
ponder it on your beds, and be silent. Selah
5 Offer right sacrifices,
and put your trust in the Lord.
6 There are many who say, “O that we might see some good!
Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord!”
7 You have put gladness in my heart
more than when their grain and wine abound.
8 I will both lie down and sleep in peace;
for you alone, O Lord, make me lie down in safety.
Tim’s Devotional Reflection for Today
The ancient psalmist advised, “When you are disturbed (can be translated angry), do not sin; ponder it on your beds, and be silent.”
Pondering on our beds may be difficult for most of us. A few years ago a study suggested that people don’t really like simply “pondering.” Here’s a summary of the findings:
In 11 studies, we found that participants typically did not enjoy spending six to 15 minutes in a room by themselves with nothing to do but think, that they enjoyed doing mundane external activities much more…
Participants in the study ranged in age from 18 to 77. They were told to entertain themselves alone in a room just with their thoughts, or to imagine doing one of three pleasant activities like hiking. Regardless of age, most showed no fondness for being alone and thinking. On a 9-point scale of enjoyment, their average rating was about in the middle. They “consistently demonstrated that they would rather have something to do than to have nothing other than their thoughts for even a fairly brief period of time,” [lead researcher Timothy] Wilson said.
But here’s the shocking — literally shocking — part: In one phase of the study, participants were given the option of administering a mild shock to themselves by pressing a button. Before starting their time alone, they all received a sample of the shock, and most said they would pay to avoid being shocked again.
Nonetheless, when placed in a room alone with their thoughts and no other distractions, 12 of the 18 males (67 percent) and six of the 24 females (25 percent) gave themselves at least one electric shock during the 15-minute period. “What is striking,” the researchers write, “is that simply being alone with their own thoughts for 15 minutes was apparently so aversive that it drove many participants to self-administer an electric shock that they had earlier said they would pay to avoid.”
Wow! In one phase of the study, 61 of the participants were invited to spend their alone time with their thoughts at home — for only six to 15 minutes, mind you. But even there, about a third of the participants admitted that they “‘cheated’ … by engaging in some activity, such as listening to music, using a cell phone or leaving their chair,” Wilson said. “And they didn’t enjoy this experience any more at home than at the lab.”
We might think that such findings can be explained by the pace of modern society or easy access to electronic devices — smartphones, iPads and the like. But Wilson doesn’t think so. Instead, he suggests that the devices are a response to the common wish to never be without something to do.
What should we make of this?
Is it an indictment of our society, an indictment of our sinful nature, an indictment of a propensity to avoid hard work (which thinking is)? Or does it simply mean that we’re hardwired to prefer an external reality rather than an internal reality?
Wilson thinks it’s the latter: “The mind is designed to engage with the world,” he said. “Even when we are by ourselves, our focus usually is on the outside world. And without training in meditation or thought-control techniques, which still are difficult, most people would prefer to engage in external activities.”
(“Most people don’t enjoy sitting quietly with their thoughts, study shows.” The Wired Word for the Week of July 20, 2014. thewiredword.com.)
Being alone with nothing to do but think is difficult for most people, so what are we to do with the psalmist’s advice? Perhaps the way to think of it is as a warning of what to do and not do when we are upset or angry: Think things through. Think about how you are feeling and why. Think about the consequences of any action. Think about how God is present and at work in your life. Don’t speak or act before you have really thought it through.
Thank you for sharing this early moment of your day with me, with God, and with the words and music that I hope you will carry with you throughout the coming day and night.
I am so grateful for you, for our church, and for the Love that will see us all through this very difficult time. Please stay safe and well and we’ll be together again in spirit tomorrow morning!
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster