How to Cultivate a Quiet Mind Amid Uncertainty

by | Mar 25, 2020 | Lent, Sabbath

As we transition into week five of Lent, most of us are wandering around in a malaise, retracing the entrails of our homes as if waking from a bad dream. The coronavirus pandemic in the forefront of thoughts, we are whispering a collective, “Oh, right. It’s still Lent, isn’t it? I forgot about that.” This week, the focus of resting the mind and heart couldn’t be timelier, yes? As you will read, I’ve had a lot of practice with that lately due to a recent health diagnosis; practice I wish I didn’t need.

Pulling garden gloves off both hands, I pick up the ringing phone and read private number on the screen before saying, “Hello.”

A British female on the line identifies herself as a doctor with the medical practice in my neighborhood. “I have the results of your CT Colonography and wondered if you have time today?”

“Yes, I have time,” I said. Who doesn’t have time right now, I thought? The whole wide world is being asked to stay home.

“Don’t come to the practice because it’s been turned into a Covid-19 site. Only patients displaying symptoms of the coronavirus are being seen there,” she explains, giving me an alternate address. “And you can bring someone along with you.”

I put the phone down on the bookshelf, along with the pen and paper I’d used to jot down the postal code, turn around, and make eye contact with H.

“She told me I can bring someone along. I’m thinking she has some hard news to deliver.”

“What time is the appointment,” H asks.

“Four o’clock,” I reply. We have three hours before leaving the house.

He stands up, wraps his arms around me and my cheek sinks into the zipper on the sweater he’s donned every day for the past week. Walks upstairs to his makeshift desk and reschedules the last Zoom call on his agenda. I abandon planting pansies in the garden to make a pot of chili. As spices mingle, the familiar scent of my children’s carefree adolescence wafts through all three stories of our terrace house.

How do you navigate a personal health crisis during a global pandemic?

How do you homeschool your kids while working full time in the same space?

How does a new relationship bloom while practicing social distancing?

How can you offer peace to people counting on you when your heart is tangled with anxiety?

How does a business pay employees when there is no money coming in?

How do those same employees pay for rent and food?

How do you quiet your mind when everything familiar has transformed into a new kind of uncertainty?

We do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16

How to Transition from Fear to Peace

When I feel anxiety pulse through my body, I begin fixing my eyes on the unseen by meditating on Psalm 23 line-by-line. Adoring God, the imagery in the verses overshadow fear of what-ifs and create uncharacteristic calm.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

Lord, I adore you for being my shepherd. Thank you that you know exactly what I need when I need it. You know when I’m hungry and when I need to rest. You provide guidance and rescue when I choose the wrong path. I lack nothing because your love and care are all I need.

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.

Lord, thank you for provision. Your gifts are verdant, lush, and abundant. Amid isolation, I adore you for leading me to quiet places where the beauty of heaven is reflected. Lead me into truth that refreshes my soul when I feel drained from dire projections on the television.

He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.

Lord, I adore you for leading me on the right path for your sake, not for the sake of my selfish desires. Where you lead, there is safety in your presence. Help me to recognize your back and identify your footprints when my mind is foggy, and heart is vulnerable.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Lord, we are walking through unprecedented times in our history. May we learn from the Israelites wandering through the desert. Help us to remain steadfast in belief and not be led by outward circumstances. Our uncertainty is your opportunity to reveal the certainty of your love for us. I adore your rod and staff because they are a sign of your affection for your lambs. Grant each of us a gentle poke; a reminder that we are not forgotten but cherished.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.

Even in a global battle with the enemy of the coronavirus, you prepare a table for us. I adore that your table is safe because you are seated there with us. There isn’t a battle in this world that you have lost to the enemy.  Be my shield when I feel open to attack, exposed, and vulnerable.

You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Thank you for unseen favor that drips from being your child. I adore your Fatherhood. Not only do you provide what I need but what you provide often overflows onto others.

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

How I respond to uncertainty not only affects me but my spouse, children, friends, and neighbors. Help me to live into the person you envision I can be one or five years from now. Though my house is currently a safe haven, bricks and mortar cannot save me. Ultimately, safety resides in the home you are preparing for us now.  

The windows are open, and the sun is shining as the Circle line hums on the tracks next to the doctor’s office. “The CT shows you have quite a large mass growing in the soft tissue just below your liver,” the doctor tells H and I. “It’s possible it might be lymphoma.”

I have a biopsy scheduled for Friday at 8.30am. Would you pray with me for the outcome of benign?

We are hard pressed on every side, but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” 2 Corinthians 4:8

A Few Changes that Affect You

Because of the recent disruptions caused by a pandemic and health issues, I’m going to take a short break from blogging to finish the edits on my forthcoming book, Searching for Certainty: Finding God in the Disruptions of Life. While the coronavirus and tumor growing in my body were nowhere on my radar when I was writing my next book, the timing and theme of uncertainty feels providential. You can pre-order a copy here.

And if you need gentle restful reminders that allow your soul to breathe deeper, listen to 10-minute podcasts by joining my Patreon community here. Also find vodcast personal updates and details about the release of Searching for Certainty there too.

While I cannot respond to every email received from my readers right now, please know that I read every one of them. I’m deeply grateful for your words of encouragement and prayers. They buoy me when I begin drifting away from Peace. Keep them coming and thank you!

Places that Cultivate Peace of Mind

I’m Praying Through the Psalms with this book from Cindy Hamilton.

Join a worldwide community for prayer and meditation on verses that conjure peace through the pandemic with the Lectio 365 app.

Learn how to apply adoration to your middle minutes while at home. As an early reader of Sara Hagerty’s new book, Adore, I highly recommend it for such a time as this. Pre-order it now! And she’s showing us how adoration looks practically on Instagram.

Subscribe for Shelly’s stories and free resources here:


  1. Tina

    Hi Shelley:
    I’m not sure how I found you but I had read Sensible Shoes and the other books that followed. After being introduced to a slow, reflective look at who God is through these books lead me to you somehow. “Contemplative Prayer”
    I have loved your blogs and the ladies in my small group, I now share with.
    May God keep us all safe as we walk through uncharted waters. I will pray especially for God;s healing.
    As I was praying over my fears and anxiety, I realized that I had allowed my thoughts to be so captivated by my emotions. I had to relent and ask the Lord to remember great us thy faithfulness and help me to king for my eternal home verses being so overwhwith uncertainty.
    God bless.

  2. Kristin V

    Praying for you…..peace and confidence in His unfolding plan. He goes before you.

  3. Zelpha

    Oh Shelly I am praying for peace and a good result for Friday may God give you strength, may he give you peace in the coming days.
    May he give you discernment and wisdom to navigate the days that follow.
    God goes before us and prepares a way that he knows is our best road to travel with him by our side.
    Blessings and Peace

  4. Deborah G Ball

    Oh Shelley, my heart aches for your walk during this time. May you and H be a comfort to one another each moment while you navigate uncertainty. God will meet you there in the uncertainty. He is faithful, sweet sister!

  5. Mary B.

    Praying for you as you walk through this. You are not alone. Rest in Him. 🙂

  6. Pat

    We come into your throne room in the name of Your own Son, Jesus. We thank you for being the great God You are! We thank you for Your faithfulness, Your love, Your sovereignty over all. We lift up Your daughter, Shelly, to You right now. May she experience You like she never has before. May You grant her Your peace…for You say in Psalm 119:165: “Great peace have those who love Your law; nothing can make them stumble.” Father, we ask that You would be her portion and also her family’s portion. May You draw them closer together and closer to You through this. We ask for the doctor’s skilled hands to do what you’ve created them to do…guide his/her hands surely. We ask for quick recovery from the biopsy. We ask for a benign result from this test. Father, we also pray against the enemy and his schemes, in the name and by the blood of Your own Son, Jesus. Father, we look to You during this time. We ask that all that is said and done would bring glory to You. In the name of Jesus, Amen.

    • Dea

      How very grateful I am for this blog, this place on the vast world world wide where we became friends. I prayed for us both using your words through the great Psalm of David–the psalm that I am sure is bringing comfort to God’s people all over the world. You know I’m praying and what I am praying. May God continue to fill you with his peace, to hold you close in the uncertainty concerning the mass, and may he hedge about you as you travel to appointments so that you are not exposed to the virus. How loved you are! by God, me and so so many others. May his love overflow to you this day in great measure. xo

      • Dea

        Not sure why my comment went to this thread…apparently I’m a bit scattered 🙂

  7. Celeste Allyn

    I am praying Shelley. Hugs, Celeste

  8. Laura Hale

    Praying for you, sweet sister and your family.

  9. Debbie

    Oh my, Shelly! I will be praying for you. Such timing with everything else going on but this is no surprise to our God. May He grant you peace in the midst of uncertainty. I’ve been watching a video series on the Lord’s Prayer on Scottsdale Bible Church website. It has been so good and helpful about the model Jesus gave us to pray in Matthew. “His will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” There’s a reason for everything even if we don’t understand. I will be praying for you and your family.

  10. Sharon Griffith

    Expectant with you, Shelley. To see His goodness. It endures forever. Rejoicing with you in our Lord and Savior, Jehovah Rophe and Jehovah Shalom. Our eternal dwelling place. Underneath are the everlasting arms.

  11. Barb Ewest


    I am praying with you and for you. Thank you for your beautiful, honest words of hope and trust and love. Your gift calms my riotous thinking and reminds me to turn again to the One who dwells above the circle of the earth. When I dwell in Him, fear is dispelled; all is calm.

    May that which you have shared bless you now, and may our Father keep you in perfect peace.

    With thanksgiving and love in Christ,
    Barb Ewest

  12. Katie

    Praying for an outcome of benign and His peace that passes understanding. May you rest in Him dear sister.

  13. Linda Stoll

    Praying right now …
    He is able.

  14. Sheryl

    Fayetteville,NC 2-3:00AM 🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻♥️👍🏻

  15. Lauren

    Praying right now for our Lord’s peace to wrap around you like the softest blanket and nestle you close to His heart. Praying for guidance and healing. Thank you for all the ways you point us to the Father. You’ve encouraged my heart to trust Him more in so many ways! 💗

  16. Doris

    Praying for you, Shelly, for God’s peace, for Him to give you and H strength and courage and yes, please Lord, let this be benign.

  17. Letitia Suk

    Praying for you and feeling such thankfulness for you.

  18. Kim

    I am praying for you from Memphis, TN…I live close to St Jude children’s research hospital where they study leukemia and lymphoma …. it will be my reminder to pray for you….

  19. Melinda

    Praying from across the sea…trusting our Lord for your health and really the whole world’s health given our current situation . May His peace permeate your being, your home. I appreciate your vulnerability in sharing this prayer request. Hunkering down in rural Indiana.

  20. Rebecca Grady

    Dear Shelly, May the Lord bless you and keep you in His tender loving care. I agree with you in prayer for health and peace in the midst of this trial. Rest in Him. His grace is sufficient. love you, Rebecca

  21. Melissa Ciatto

    Dear Shelly,

    Every time I get on your IG or read one of your posts, I feel a peace and a longing for quiet and stillness. Your writing and photography soothes my soul as you use it to point your readers to Christ.

    This morning as I think about this world that is filled with trials upon trials, I am trying to look at it as a season of newness. It is Spring here in Eastern PA and my little backyard is changing daily. I see something new growing every day. I see goldfinches coming to my feeders who are molting and shedding the dreary brown and grey of winter and becoming more golden by the day. Isn’t that just like Christ’s work in us? He is teaching us new things every day to make us look more like him — he is burning off the dross and making us like pure gold so that we may reflect his Divine Image to an even greater degree. May he use your diagnosis, whatever the Lord wills it to be, to conform you to a greater likeness of His image. I have no doubt that He will continue the good work he started in You as you continue to glorify Him in all that you do.

    What a gift we have in trusting Christ.

    May you be filled with the knowledge of His love and grace,

    Jeremiah 17:7–8

    [7] “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
    whose trust is the LORD.
    [8] He is like a tree planted by water,
    that sends out its roots by the stream,
    and does not fear when heat comes,
    for its leaves remain green,
    and is not anxious in the year of drought,
    for it does not cease to bear fruit.” (ESV)

  22. Leslie Johnson

    Oh dear friend,
    I am praying and holding up your arms right now here in Dallas, Texas. Asking that Psalm 23 will be more real to you today than it was yesterday. xoxo

  23. Gigi Greene

    Sweet friend we will be praying for you and H. Hold tightly to God’s hand during this time. I know we all wish we were closer to our loved ones but God is a might and powerful God who loves each and every one of us. Blessings to you and H

    Gigi and Sandy

  24. Stephanie

    Lifting you up to Our Great God, the One who hears our prayers and answers. Praying for your peace, comfort and a benign diagnosis.
    You are a blessing!
    May His love and light shine bright through you!
    With love and a hug 🌺❤️😊

  25. Lynn Morrissey

    Shelly, know pls. how much I love you and am praying fervently for your wellbeing and for you to nuzzle close to your Good Shepherd who holds you close, will never let you go, and Who goes before you and winnows your path. I left some long VM’s by cell.
    Love you so much . . . and these beautiful prayers for each line of the Psalm. Sheridan was so blessed to. I”ve encouraged our family (as of yesterday, actually–so your post is so timely) to write out Psalm 23, daily and prayerfully in our journals. Writing seals it more fully in our hearts.

    All my dearest love,

  26. Diane

    Gracious and merciful LORD, we stand in the gap for your daughter and our sister in Christ, Shelly, and we ask that your healing breath would flow through her body by the power of your Holy Spirit 🙏. I ask O Lord that you would lift the anxiety and fear from her mind, her soul, and her spirit. Pour into her your resounding peace. She prayed that we would recognize your back as we follow you, I pray that she would recognize your glory in the midst of all she is facing. Show her your glory Lord. In the precious name of Jesus, Amen.

  27. Allison Burkhard

    I am currently waiting for exam results as well…praying for you…for peace which surpasses all understanding, for healing, for a deeper certainty of God’s love for you. He is wrapping His arms around you and carrying you every step of the way. Thank you for blessing us with your words.

  28. Carol

    Dear Shelly,
    My eyes were full of tears after reading your post. Praying continually for a benign outcome and that you will be feeling well in record time. Your blog is so important and you are loved and admired by so many!
    “Lord, whether I am in the limelight or shadows,
    whether I am active or quiet,
    whether I am being enlarged or reduced,
    whether I have much or little,
    I am content and thankful because I have YOU.”
    Hugs and Prayers from Colorado

  29. Wendy Jackson

    We are praying right now. Health and wholeness to you. Peace to you and your family. Amen

  30. Rachel

    Thinking of you and praying for you this morning, Shelley. What a tough time for you and your family. I have been very blessed by your book and your weekly blogs, thank you. x

  31. Beth

    Sending you love and prayers.

  32. Laura

    Holding you in my heart and sending much love!

  33. barbara boland

    it is 8:28 in georgia usa. your biopsy is completed by now, but i am lifting you to the Father, Who was and Is and Is to come, knowing that He has you in the palm of His Hand. you inspire, encourage, and lift us, and now it is our turn to do so for you!
    Abba, Daddy, be as close as shelly’s breath, bringing her Your Peace, and knowledge that You are still on the Throne! In the precious name of Jesus, Amen

  34. Jen Babcock

    Praying for you today. For peace that surpasses all understanding; for wisdom and strength. For benign results. Praying for your family; uncertainty sure has surrounded so many and I pray that they’re (and all of us are) remembering that God is sovereign and nothing is a surprise to him.
    So thankful for the peaceful and timely words you speak into my life and the life of so many.
    Will be holding you in my prayers daily,
    Jen – Ontario, Canada

  35. Cheryl

    Sorry to hear of the additional challenges you are facing right now. Praying for grace, strength and healing for you! May our next communication from you bring positive news!

  36. Bre McAninch

    Praying for you to find additional rest during this difficult season via “THE peace that passes understanding..”

    Holding you and your precious loved-ones in prayer,


  37. Shawna Rash

    Dear Sister,
    You have been such a blessing to me through the years and I was saddened to hear what you are going through at this time. Praying you will get a benign report on your biopsy and will watch and wait to hear along with all of us who love and treasure the person you are. You can’t know how this praying of the 23rd Psalm blessed and spoke to me giving me courage and hope as well. It appears that I also will be having a biopsy for a nodule on my thyroid in the days ahead. I would appreciate your prayers as well. I want to thank you again for sharing so personally your tender heart with your readers at this most difficult time….God used you to lift and strengthen me in the waiting. Much love! Shawna

  38. Brenda Meyer

    I am so sorry to hear that you are going through this now. Even though you already know the results, I’m still praying for a benign report. I just walked through a season of cancer, and I know a little of how you must be feeling. My friend and I are going through your book “Rhythms of Rest” right now through FaceTime, since we can’t meet due to our quarantine, but it has been such a blessing to us both. This is my second time of reading it, her first. I had been wondering how you were doing, I just hadn’t had time lately to check in. I will be praying for you and your husband and family during this time. Blessings….

  39. Theresa Boedeker

    Psalm 23 is my go to psalm when I need to remind myself of God’s goodness. And to calm myself, like during turbulence on plane rides. Praying for your health.

  40. Amanda Lewis

    My heart goes out to you as you take time out, first in your choice to make this a year of jubilee or sabbath and then confirmed when this diagnosis has come. The words of the song by Newsboys has been an echoing refrain for me as all the covid19 uncertainty has gathered momentum.
    In this time of desperation
    When all we know is doubt and fear
    There is only one foundation
    We believe, we believe…
    and my other word The joy of the lord is my strength just because the Lord knows I love to sing.
    May he calm your fears and give you peace at his time.

  41. Heidi Nymphius

    Dear Shelly,
    when I read your message, I knew that I will pray for you . I got to know you through Sally Clarkson mentioning you in one of her podcasts last year.
    We two don’t know each other but when the Lord touches one’s heart – it simply happens.
    It is on my heart to lift you up and speak peace to your precious soul. I pray that your faith will grow through a time like this….
    Hebr. 12: 1-2
    Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.
    Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
    Be blessed mightily,
    lot’s of love, Heidi.

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