The Small Things in Life Bring Peace in a Time of Chaos

The world feels out of control right now—but finding peace may be as simple as focusing on the smaller things of life.


That’s why I built the raised garden bed in the picture at top.


The bed is eight feet long, four feet wide, three feet deep and filled with garden soil from a local nursery. Twine tied to the top rails divides the box into five sections. A few tentative carrots live in the first one. Next is green beans—they’re the unruly bushes spilling over the edges of the box.


The third section hosts two squash plants assertive enough to challenge the green beans for pride of place, with the winner to be declared at harvest next month. Several varieties of tomatoes occupy the last two sections, one of which is doing its best imitation of Jack’s beanstalk by growing so rapidly that I wouldn’t be surprised to wake up one morning to a vine thick as my waist that extends to the clouds.


I give time and attention to my little garden not because I expect it to feed me and Pam (it’s not big enough) or to save money (I spend way more money growing vegetables than buying them from the grocery store) but because in a world that seems to grow more chaotic with each passing week, I find peace there.


Small things are those innocent gestures, activities or pursuits we engage in for no other reason than that they make us or someone we love happy


If raised garden boxes aren’t for you, it can be reading a book to your child before bedtime. Going fishing. A leisurely dinner sitting around the table with family or friends. Golf. Walking on the beach. Viewing reruns of Michael Jordan’s championship season. Shopping. Listening to classical music. Watching a sunset. Petting your dog. Eating ice cream. Small things are those innocent gestures, activities or pursuits we engage in for no other reason than that they make us or someone we love happy.


Small things have no agenda beyond themselves. They don’t solve the world’s problems. They don’t make money. They don’t advance a political cause. They don’t promote a religious doctrine. They’re not urgent, desperate, newsworthy or visible to anyone much beyond yourself. They’re not tied to performance standards of any kind.


For all their meager impact and limited resources, though, small things can accomplish something that larger, more celebrated issues can’t. For one thing, they invite us into spiritual freedom and joy. When I’m staking up a tomato, my mind isn’t on the Drudge Report’s latest headline but on God’s good creation.


God does some of his best work through small things


But that’s not all. Small things are also where God does some of his best work.


That’s what happened to God’s ancient people when they were confronted by the critical issues of their own time. How could they contend with the geo-political realities of the emerging world power of Persia? How could their paltry military stand against the brute strength of foreign armies?


God answers their question by directing them to place their faith in his unchanging power: “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord.” (Zechariah 4:6) Then four verses later he calls them to the paradoxical truth that small things like faith result in the resolution of big things like hostile powers: “Don’t despise the day of small things.”


Jesus used the tiniest garden seed of all, a mustard seed, to illustrate another great truth of the Kingdom. “It is the smallest of all seeds,” he says, “but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” (Matthew 13:32)


What about the young boy with the small lunch in John 6:9? Jesus took his tiny lunch of two little fish and five loaves and, though his own divine power, fed thousands—an object lesson of how his sacrificial death on the cross would provide for the life of the whole world.


And the smallest moment of all when the greatest love was revealed–the Incarnation of the divine Son of God in Mary’s baby. “And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger because there was no room for him in the inn.” (Luke 2:7)


We’re surrounded by so many worries today that many of us spend our time and energy thinking about little else. The chaos threatens our world as well as our place in it. The scale and the scope of our problems robs us of joy and hope.


Will a vaccine for COVID-19 ever be ready?


How can we solve the race problem in America?


When can I go back to work?


When can I visit my aging mother in the nursing home?


What kind of world will my children have to live in?


Don’t get me wrong. If our nation is going to succeed in the coming years, those questions will have to be answered. But in our obsession with the big things we’ve neglected the small things. If we want to see God at work, it’s time to turn back to them.


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