When we consider simplicity, we tend to think about it as an outward reality. We think of simplifying our lives by getting rid of possessions, by eliminating unnecessary busyness, or by scaling back our friend lists and social media feeds to shed unwanted stress or frustration. Like a lot of things connected to the practice of our faith, we assume we will change our internal state through external actions. For example, we might think that we will simplify our lives if we say “no” to adding anything else to our calendar. When we say “no”, we will be less stressed because we will have less to do on our schedule.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t really get at the root of the problem. It doesn’t deal with why we got so busy, or stressed, or accumulated so much stuff to begin with. Working on our external behaviors can work for a time, but it usually doesn’t lead to any lasting change in us. Our schedules may clear for a little bit. We may have removed some clutter in the house. However, until we deal with the internal desires that lead to busyness, stress, too many material possessions, and over-complication, we will continue to deal with the frustration that stems from an unchecked heart. The calendar will fill up again, Clutter will take over the house again. Stress will be the norm again.
Simplicity starts as an internal attitude that extends to our external behaviors. Once we have a heart for simplicity, then our outward behaviors will reflect that inward attitude. So then, how do we get there? Here are some suggestions to help you on your journey toward simplicity.
Understand The Problem: We need to make sure that we understand that the problem is an internal one. Our external behaviors matter, but they are simply a symptom of a larger problem. Changing our external behavior will only get us so far. We need a change of heart. When our heart changes our external behaviors will fall in line and we will live a life more centered in simplicity. It is the inward reality of simplicity that brings with it liberation from the unhealthy attachments that so frequently seek to ruin our lives.
Learn To Understand Your Motivations: What motivates you? Is it a desire for power, fame, or control? Are you motivated by money and possessions? Are you motivated to compete with others, to be better than they are? What makes you tick? Understanding why busyness, material possessions, or acknowledgment matters to us is a key step in moving toward simplicity. If you are struggling to understand what motivates you, then ask God to show you. Ask the people closest to you what they think motivates you. Look at the calendar and see where you spend your time. Is it at work, at church, with family, with friends? Where does your money go? Does your money go to buy unnecessary things? Are you using it to help others? If you follow where your time and money go, you have a pretty good indicator of where your heart is.
Prayer: We must spend time in prayer. We need to ask God to show us those things for which we have an unhealthy attachment. We need to clearly see where the work is needed and to ask God to break those bonds that keep us attached to things that are unhealthy for us. Simplicity is not a journey we can walk alone. It is Jesus that came to bring liberation and it is He who will bring simplicity to our lives.
Seek First God’s Kingdom: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” – Matthew 6:33
Then for our part, we must seek first God’s kingdom. It is good to seek the simple life, but the simple life comes through seeking first the kingdom of God. Simplicity is nothing more than idolatry and legalism if it is prioritized over seeking the kingdom of God. A heart of simplicity will flow from seeking God’s kingdom. We must ask God what he would have us be and do. When we seek the kingdom of God first, then simplicity will be added to us.
Simplicity Is A Journey, Not a Destination: There is no arriving at simplicity. You won’t wake up one day and have all the simplicity in life you will ever need. You will need to adjust and readjust as life happens. There will be times when it comes more easily. Other times will be more difficult. Things will happen like adding family members that will shift and change priorities. We may also lose those that we love and again, our priorities will shift. What simplicity looks like will be different at different points in your life. Understand that change will occur. It is one of the few constants in life. As you change, and the world around you changes, your understanding of simplicity will shift. You are on a faith journey. One day the destination will be reached. Until then, understand that you will need to adapt and change until the final destination is reached.