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Avoiding Being in the Thick of Thin Things

woman looking out on busy street

It was a great day.

You know, the first time you feel confident enough to leave home without hiring a babysitter, certain that your oldest child can hold down the fort? It was such a day for my brother and his wife. As the kids were soundly sleeping in their beds, the happy parents couldn’t pass up this rare opportunity for a date night out. After writing detailed instructions, they went to a nearby movie theater, leaving 11-year-old McKay in charge.

Imagine their panic when they returned home a few hours later and saw and smelled the smoke of an electrical fire. They panicked, raced around the house checking on all the sleeping children, and then confronted McKay, who, unalarmed, was reading on the couch.

“Hey!” my brother yelled, “What’s going on? Don’t you smell that?”

“Sure,” McKay casually replied, “I do. I looked around and didn’t see anything. And you know, it was kind of irritating at first, but you get used to it.”

In things that really matter, McKay was right. We can become casual in our response to warning signs. In addition, if we don’t spend time doing what it takes to work on things of eternal consequence, we can get used to running around in a panic, putting out one fire after another, and the result can be devastating.

As the world gets busier and noisier, it becomes critical for us to carve out time for those things that are of greatest importance. 

President Thomas S. Monson has said: “We become so caught up in the busyness of our lives. Were we to step back, however, and take a good look at what we’re doing, we may find that we have immersed ourselves in the ‘thick of thin things.’ In other words, too often we spend most of our time taking care of the things which do not really matter much at all in the grand scheme of things, neglecting those more important causes” (“What Have I Done for Someone Today?” Oct. 2009 general conference).

What will you take with you; what will you leave behind?

When our stake went on trek a few years ago, our theme was “What will you take with you; what will you leave behind?” I have thought about that a lot. Each of us is on a trek. We may not be trekking with a handcart through the plains of Wyoming, but we are trekking nonetheless.

We trek through long days and nights of sick babies, running carpools, helping with homework, and working to make ends meet. We trek through relationship challenges, financial challenges, and mental and physical health challenges. We trek through overwhelming assignments and our daily list of things to do. Some of us may be trekking through grief, or even loneliness or boredom. Although we all experience different challenges during this life, one thing is for certain—we all have them.

So, what do we take with us and what do we leave behind? I want to fill my cart with covenants, with relationships, with things that will build character. Those things are of eternal importance.

When we come to understand what is essential in this life and in the next, it becomes easier to lighten our load. We eliminate excess, set priorities, and reduce distractions that could get us stuck in the mud while other handcarts and wagons move on. If we are weighed down with guilt, despair, sin, and sadness, it is time to set these things aside and fill our carts with faith, hope, and a regular renewal of our covenants with God.

Do you have any personal quiet time?

Joseph Smith said, “The manifestations of the gift of the  Holy Ghost … were very seldom manifested publicly, … but most generally … it has been to individuals in private, in their chamber; in the wilderness or fields, and that generally without noise or tumult” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith [2007], 121).

Unfortunately, our world is filled with lots of noise and lots of tumult. Satan knows the greatest leverage point is in that quiet space, so he tries to separate us from those moments. 

We turn on the radio the moment we get in the car, we put in earphones while we exercise, and the TV is on in the background while we prepare dinner. These distractions rob of us that quiet place. It’s not that these things are bad, but perhaps we are forfeiting something better.

Elder M. Russell Ballard said: “As an Apostle, I now ask you a question: Do you have any personal quiet time? I have wondered if those who lived in the past had more opportunity than we do now to see, feel, and experience the presence of the Spirit in their lives. Seemingly, as our world gets brighter, louder, and busier, we have a greater challenge feeling the Spirit in our lives. If your life is void of quiet time, would you begin tonight to seek for some?” (“Be Still, and Know That I Am God” [Church Educational System devotional for young adults, May 4, 2014], broadcasts.lds.org).

Unless we make the time and effort to extract ourselves from the distractions and the noise, the voice of the Spirit may not get through to us.

What are you doing that you should stop doing?

President Russell M. Nelson taught us: “Find a quiet place where you can regularly go. Humble yourself before God. Pour out your heart to your Heavenly Father. Turn to Him for answers and for comfort. Pray in the name of Jesus Christ about your concerns, your fears, your weaknesses—yes, the very longings of your heart. And then listen!” (“Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives,” Apr. 2018 general conference).

There is great power in setting aside quiet, prayerful pondering time. Even Christ took the time to leave the crowds to commune with His Father. In Matthew 14:23 we read, “He went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.”

Elder Kim B. Clark, speaking to seminary and institute teachers, shared a life-changing piece of advice. On a regular basis, he and his wife prayerfully consider the following two questions: 

  1. What am I doing that I should stop doing?
  2. What am I not doing that I should start doing?

Ask yourself these questions, listen carefully for the answers, and then act on what is taught.

The Lord loves us and is involved in every detail of our life. As we are intentional about seeking the Lord every day, He will bless us. He will renew us, and He will grant us peace. When we aren’t caught up in the “thick of thin things” and are focused on Christ, we can be calm and centered in a tumultuous world.

Adapted from an address given at BYU Women’s Conference in May 2018.


Michelle Craig and her husband live in Orem, Utah. She loves family history, temple work, reading, and enjoying time with her family. Read more from Sister Craig on her Facebook page.