Four Habits of Grace to Cultivate a Quiet Heart

But we encourage you, brothers and sisters,
to do this even more, to seek to lead a quiet life. 
1 Thessalonians 4:10–11 

At the beginning of 2020, few of us could foresee how much the world would change with the effects of a pending pandemic. In a similar way, few of us could envision back in the 1990s how much the world as we knew it was about to change with technological advances.

Today, with just a few clicks on a laptop, almost nothing is beyond the reach of our fingertips. We can access a seemingly infinite store of information within seconds. We can “visit” distant lands from the comfort of our living rooms. And we can talk with anyone, anywhere, at any time. 

These technological capacities are, indeed, remarkable, and we can be thankful for the many gifts the internet has brought us. At the same time, many of us are also recognizing an inherent cost involved in these advances, especially if we spend very much time online. Namely, that the relentless stream of audio and visual noise is inescapable.

As the world beckons us to do more, say more, post more, and share more, it’s inevitable that more noise is created. When we’re surrounded by noise, it’s as if our souls have a slow leak, and we can feel our energy ebbing away.

Do you ever feel fatigued and you can’t quite pinpoint why?
Do you sometimes wish you could press a mute button on everything?
Do you long for a deep, lasting quietness of heart that can’t be shaken?

If you can relate to the depleting effects of the world’s noise, you are not alone.

Somewhere along the way, I became swept up in the online current of constant production, followed by ongoing engagement. And the noise was draining me.

In response to all the noise around me, I sensed God drawing me to the passage in 1 Thessalonians 4:11, where Paul tells believers to “seek to lead a quiet life.” These words resonated deeply. I longed for genuine quiet, not merely in the environment around me, but also in my heart.

Too often I think we associate “a quiet life” with personality types or temperaments. But Paul wasn’t advocating that we all become introverts, as if that were even possible. Rather, he was inviting believers to consider their ways to be sure they weren’t replicating the way of the world.

The internet, of course, didn’t exist in Paul’s day, but even then He recognized the way the world’s values tend to crowd out the quiet space our hearts need in order to find respite and experience solace. For the world wants to capture our attention and keep it wholly fixed upon the next news cycle or the next big update from a prominent influencer.

But leading a quiet life doesn’t mean withdrawing indefinitely from everything around us; rather, it’s about moving through life with a quiet heart as our gaze is set resolutely on Christ.

What might this look like in practical terms?

What does a quiet life look like?

There are steps we can take to actively cultivate a quiet heart that will lead us to a quiet life. I call them habits of grace. These habits aren’t secret ingredients or hidden mysteries; they’re simply ordinary ways that believers have been growing in grace for generations. And while there are many we could discuss, here are four habits that can help us to cultivate quiet hearts in a noisy and demanding world.

Four Habits of Grace

1. Set aside time to regularly be in God’s presence, in the sanctuary of His amazing creation, without the noisy distractions of modern technology.

Find a place outside that is especially beautiful to you. Maybe it’s your favorite spot at the beach if you happen to live near an ocean or a lake. Or maybe it’s a shady spot in your backyard, next to some lovely hydrangeas. Or maybe it’s a local park, with tall trees and winding paths.

The Psalmist exclaims, 

The heavens declare the glory of God, 
and the expanse proclaims the work of his hands. (Psalm 19:1)

There’s something about entering into the beauty of God’s created world that reorients our souls to what is real and what really matters. Something as simple as strolling through a park can anchor us in ways that scrolling on a screen cannot.

It doesn’t surprise me that the very first sanctuary was a garden, with rivers and trees and flowers, hills, rocks, birds, and every kind of animal. All of God’s creation sings His praise, and we join in that chorus of praise when we step outside to behold His majesty with awe and wonder.

Select someplace outdoors that is easy to get to from your home and make it a “sanctuary” where you can regularly savor the beauty of God’s creation.

2. Turn off the technology around you and turn to the truth of God’s Word.

As you seek to intentionally turn off some of the noise around you, fill that quiet space with the goodness, truth, and beauty of Scripture.

The Psalmist says, 

I have treasured your word in my heart 
so that I may not sin against you. (Psalm 119:11)

If reading the Bible hasn’t been a part of your daily routine, make a plan to begin incorporating it into the natural rhythm of your day. If you’re not sure where to begin, start by reading one psalm a day, or a chapter in one of the four Gospels each day.

If reading the Bible is already a part of your daily routine, consider immersing yourself in Scripture even further by writing out a favorite verse, or even a longer passage, each day in a journal. For when we write, we remember.

When we silence the noise and fill that quiet space with God’s Word, our hearts become settled as we focus solely on Christ. Because a quiet life begins with a quiet heart.

3. Gather with God’s people regularly in your local church.

We serve an incarnate God. Jesus took on flesh to dwell among us (John 1:14). His very name, Immanuel, means “God with us,” not “God who is far away from us.” And Christ showed us, by example, the importance of gathering with believers and serving those around Him.

While I utilize digital technology every day for work, real-life relationships will always surpass online connections, which is one reason it’s so important that we gather with other flesh-and-blood humans to sing of God’s goodness and hear the Good News preached.

To dwell in community with other Christ-followers is part of God’s good design for His people. The writer of Hebrews said, 

And let us consider one another in order to provoke love and good works, not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24–25)

More than ever, we need sanctuary—not only as a refuge from the noise around us but also as a place where God’s truth can be clearly heard. Gathering with God’s people is one of the surest ways we can find sanctuary in a loud and restless world.

4. Offer the work of your hands as a way to serve others.

Working with our hands is a biblical concept with significant precedent. In Genesis, God was a gardener. In the New Testament, Jesus was a carpenter. Paul earned his living as a tentmaker while he traveled and preached the gospel.

This isn’t to say we should quit a desk job; many of us work in fields that don’t require physical labor, and that’s okay. But in a noisy electronic age, we are grounded in a very real sense when we intentionally step away from the digital realm and find something in the physical world that we can do with our hands, especially to serve others.

Maybe you like to make things for others—this could be meals or baked goods, quilts or scarves. Or maybe cooking and crafting isn’t your thing. Maybe you like to drive, and you’re happy giving a lift to some of the seniors in your neighborhood who can’t drive anymore. When it comes to serving others, the possibilities are virtually limitless.

In Hebrews, the writer extols us by saying, “For God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you demonstrated for his name by serving the saints—and by continuing to serve them” (6:10).

Working with our hands, engaging in the physical world God created—is part of God’s good design, and it brings him glory when it’s done with a heart that wants to serve others. And it’s very much a part of cultivating a quiet heart in a noisy, distracted age.

Christ Is Our Peace

These four habits of grace are not things we do to earn our salvation; Christ has already purchased our salvation with His blood on the cross. But these quiet habits are things we can do to cultivate a quiet heart in a noisy and demanding world.

In Scripture we have an invitation to find sanctuary in Christ, for He alone is our peace. There is no striving. No rushing. No hustling. No clamoring. There is just everyday living, with the ones closest to you. Together. Washing the dishes. Reading good books. Writing out Scripture. Taking long walks. Chatting with neighbors. And resting well.

One of the hallmarks of leading a quiet life is carrying in our hearts a deep sense of soul-rest wherever we go. Not that we won’t ever have an off-day. We’ll still have those moments when we’re not at our best, but when those moments come, we know where we can go to find true rest.

God has provided for us the sanctuary our hearts desperately need. When the world grows exceedingly loud and we need a respite from all the noise, God is our refuge.

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