Organizing your inner life

A disordered life by Valerie Woerner, ministry, prayer, gospel, mental health, anxiety, prayer, praying for anxietyI love organization. You can find examples of it in my fridge, my closet, and the girl’s toys. There’s something so peace-inducing about a clear and clutter-free space. 

I’m not the only one who thinks this. Our world loves organization. It’s why Marie Kondo has sold 11 MILLION copies of her books. It’s why the Netflix show Get Organized with The Home Edit is popular. It’s why The Container Store, a store that literally sells containers, is a favorite place to shop (by me too!).

We love having things organized. Even those of us who are messy still appreciate the feel a clean and tidy space produces. But while our shelves might be color-coded and labeled with cute little tags, it’s getting increasingly likely that we’re battling a ton of disorder in our inner life. We’re like ducks who look calm above water but underneath we’re frantically kicking. 

We have a strong faith in God but we’re constantly battling jealousy, comparison, and more anxiety than our world has ever known. We love Jesus but we can’t focus on having a conversation with him to save our life. We want to follow God’s plan for us but we’ve said yes to man instead of yes to God and are now exhausted from a cluttered life. 

We may chalk it up to being human. After all, we’re never going to be perfect on this side of heaven. We’ll always battle sin.  

But is it possible we’ve neglected the all-important task of ordering our inner world? 

It’s not so far-fetched of an idea even for the most devoted believer. We live in a physical world and we’re constantly needing reminders in Scripture that this place is temporary.

  • Colossians 3:2  says, “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.”
  • Matthew 6:19-21 says, Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
  • Philippians 3:20 says, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”

I’ll be the first to say, physical clutter drives me bonkers. I think it has an actual impact on my mind and my inner life, but I can easily spend more time tidying my outer life assuming it’s the only way to deal with the stresses I feel on the inside. 

Years ago, I read a book called Ordering Your Private World by Gordan MacDonald. Recently, I had been feeling very ping pongy in my mind and if I’m honest, very weak mentally. Small things set me off. I was moody and anxiety came on quicker than normal and I felt I had no power over it. So I decided to pick it up and review what I had highlighted years ago. 

As I reviewed the book, I felt an instant awareness that I could be stronger. It was such a hopeful feeling! So much of what I felt like made me weak were things I was choosing. Now I wasn’t choosing them on purpose, but I was in the sense that I had completely neglected my “private world”. Instead, I physically cleaned. A lot. I thought it would make me “feel better” but the nagging feeling was still there. 

You might be thinking this should be obvious for a seasoned believer, but I’m sharing this to illustrate just how easy it is for things to sneak in. Corrie Ten Boom said something that I think of often when I think of our over-scheduled world. 

“If the devil cannot make us bad, he will make us busy.”

How true is this in our own life! 

If you’re insides feel out of control. If you feel overwhelmed by life, now might be the perfect time to take a look at your inner life. MacDonald said, “No one would deny that prayer is important; but few believe their prayer life to be adequately developing. And this is a major reason the inner gardens of so many private worlds are in a state of disorder.”

Prayer is a central part of our inner lives.

Imagine the impact it has on our days:

With prayer, we’re communicating with the Creator of the universe who longs to spend time with us, lead us and give wisdom. What’s important is an eternal perspective that goes so much deeper than the problems we face in this world. 

The alternative without prayer, we’re flitting about our days on a very shallow level. What’s important are every external things, many of those things we can’t control. 

When I picture life with prayer, I picture steadiness. 

And when I picture life without, I’m not surprised that it’s filled with overwhelm and feeling like a ping pong ball bouncing from every circumstance. 

“To lose my soul means I no longer have a healthy center that organizes and guides my life. I am a car without a steering wheel. It doesn’t matter how fast I can go, because I am a crash waiting to happen.”
– John Ortberg, Soul Keeping

If you feel disordered today. Put down the label maker. Stop feeling overwhelmed by the dishes in the sink (fellow neat freaks, I’m cringing as I type this so I know you have to be wincing reading it!).

A disordered life by Valerie Woerner, ministry, prayer, gospel, mental health, anxiety, prayer, praying for anxiety

Pause and take a look at your inner life.

Matthew 23:25-26 says, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.”

In this selfie age, it’s easy to see our life by what happens on the outside instead of the inside. The things that can be praised. The things that get noticed. The things that get “likes”. We receive no cheers for waking up early to spend time in the Word. We don’t get standing ovations for choosing prayer over a podcast in the car. John Ortberg sums it up nicely. 

“Because my inner life is invisible, it is easy to neglect. No one has direct access to it, so it wins no applause.” 

But what if we cultivated this thing that no one but God has direct access to? Take a second to really think about it: How might that change our life?

I want to end today’s post, not with a long list of action steps but y’all know I can’t help sharing a few ways for where to go from here if you’re saying, “You’ve convinced me, but HOW do I do that?” 

1. Just start praying. You don’t need a perfect plan or perfect notebook (though we’re pretty biased that we have one if you want one! Decide you won’t stop just because you don’t feel like it and keep going!
2. Learn about your inner life. The two books mentioned in this post have been super impactful to help this practical gal slow down as well as one other I just finished.

a. Ordering Your Private World by Gordan MacDonald
b. Soul Keeping by John Ortberg
c. 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do by Amy Morin. This isn’t a faith-specific book but it has been super encouraging as I strengthen my mind.

3. The ultimate guide for organizing your private life using the Rule of Life. 

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