“Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength,... He is like a shrub in the desert that shall not see any good come... “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water,... not anxious in the drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”
In the Scripture passage above, God speaks through the prophet Jeremiah and tells us, “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength.” This is exactly my own temptation and my earthly default mode: to trust in myself—my efforts, my competency. But, when the craziness of life really starts to get out of control, I’m forced to admit that I can’t do it. I just can’t do enough or be enough for myself or anyone else—I don’t have it in me.
As I wrestle with longings for simplicity and the disparity between my ideal life and my reality, what I’m finding is that true simplicity doesn’t come from the outside in. Instead, simplicity begins on the inside and flows out.
In other words, I’m starting to see the simpler life for which I long will not be found through more efficient management of my calendar or my to-do list, but rather, it will come through abiding in Christ. True simplicity begins when I trust in the Lord and find my contentment in him first.
Like the tree of which the prophet Jeremiah writes, planted by streams of water, I can bear fruit through all seasons when I am trusting in the Lord. That tree doesn’t have to be anxious or fearful of heat or drought, because its roots are deep and established, and the stream supplies everything it needs. That tree is a beautiful picture of simplicity at its finest.
We can be like that tree.
When I trust in the Lord, and stay rooted in him, my leaves remain green, even in the heat of the day. But when I trust in myself and my own strength, I begin to wither. Anxiety gobbles up all the remaining fruit until I am empty, with nothing left to give.
When I find myself in that parched wilderness place, my carefully calculated management of all the externals—my schedule, my calendar, my to-do list—begins to crumble. I’m forced into triage mode, where the tyranny of the urgent trumps all and life feels totally out of control. According to Jeremiah, I’m basically like a shrub in the desert at that point, and nothing good can come of that.
Finding simplicity in our day-to-day vocations and callings begins on the inside—trusting in the Lord, and abiding in his presence. Then, even when the heat of the sun is beating down on us or the chaos of life feels overwhelming, we can still live without anxiety or fear and continue to bear good fruit.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: How do you pursue simplicity in your vocation? Have you ever considered simplicity in this way, as something that begins from the inside out? Do you agree or disagree?
PRAYER: Father, you are the true source of simplicity and contentment. Help me to abide in you; help me to trust you. Make me like the tree that is planted by the stream and remains green, even in the heat of day. Give me a heart that finds its truest joy and deepest contentment in you, and help me to bear fruit that will overflow into my life, as a blessing to others. Thank you for being with me and walking beside me through each day. Amen.
Simplicity at Work
In our complicated, 21st century, high-tech, high-speed world, people have begun to crave a simpler approach to life and work. In the series Simplicity at Work, The High Calling explores simplicity in the places we work and the ways we work; and, perhaps more subtly, we want to explore simplicity at work in us through a variety of stories that reveal ways people find freedom and success when they simplify. Join us for Bible reflections, featured articles, and discussion. Invite your colleagues to do the same.