Justice and the Inner Life

In October of 2004, I gave each of my colleagues at International Justice Mission two gifts: a blank leather journal with the words “8:30 Stillness” embossed on the cover and Invitation to Solitude and Silence by Ruth Haley Barton.

As an organization, we were experiencing incredible growth on a global scale. We were bringing rescue to victims of violent injustice in the most desperate places of suffering in our world, and we did so by working directly with local law enforcement and government officials to prove that justice for the poor is possible. We were witnessing miracles from the hand of God and it was clear that the adventure had only just begun.

Time to talk to God

In the midst of this season of tremendous growth and change, I took a sabbatical with the intention of setting apart time to talk with God about what he was doing in our midst and where we were headed as we pursued his work of justice. As I emerged from my sabbatical, I shared with our team the conviction that had grown within me and presented my colleagues with the mysteriously named “8:30 Stillness” journal and Ruth’s book.

I sensed that God desired for IJM to experience more of his presence and his power. But… we were not yet ready to receive it.

As an organization, we had a regular rhythm of praying together every day at 11 am. And yet, all too often our work would veer into prayer-less striving rather than expectant abiding. We longed for transformation – in ourselves and in the lives of those we sought to serve. We longed to know more deeply the love of our good Father who leads us in transformation. And yet, we needed a more disciplined attentiveness that would ready us to receive more of God’s presence and power. We needed to learn to be still, to wait on the Lord, to simply be with him.

Beyond prayer-less striving

The gift of the journal and Ruth’s book was a signpost of sorts, pointing us toward a new season. Perhaps more aptly it was a toolbox, equipping us for the journey into deeper readiness to experience God’s miracles of transformation – both in the world and our souls. With the blessing of our Board of Directors, beginning on that day when staff received their gift of the journal and book, 8:30 am was declared to be the formal beginning of every IJM workday as well as a time of complete stillness for all – a time we simply call “8:30 Stillness.”

Now imagine with me for a moment: a staff of high-performing lawyers, criminal investigators, social workers, and professionals in Washington, DC, and offices across the developing world, rushing to the office to begin their day, faced with the task of fighting slavery, human trafficking, police abuse, and other forms of violent oppression. As these staff arrive at their desks, their first order of business is to stop. All phones are off. Laptops closed. No email. No meetings.

Just silence. Solitude. Stillness.

For 30 minutes.

Letting the sediment settle

On any given day, stillness can be hard. Even awkward, frustrating. We come to each day like a jar of river water that has been shaken. The water is murky, impossible to see through. But as the jar sits still, unmoved, the silt and sediment begin to settle. Clearer waters emerge. So too, in the stillness that enables solitude and silence, the mud and mire of our souls begins to settle and clarity emerges.

In solitude and silence, we become aware of the inner needs and desires we bring to the day. Then we can talk to God, our good and loving Father, about what it is we actually need for that day, asking for his wisdom, his guidance, his grace to prevail.

I am utterly convinced that God works miracles of transformation in the world through miraculously transformed people. God is eager for us to be with him, to know his love and his goodness, even as he calls us to lead with great courage in the world around us. What we have learned is that the transformation we so long for comes when, whether we feel like it or not, we actually show up and choose to be still in the presence of our good God.

A crucible for world-altering transformation

It doesn’t matter who you are or what kind of work faces you on any given day; facing the demands that confront you and choosing to be still and wait upon the Lord before rushing into action is a feat that only the Spirit of God can make possible. And yet the choice to pursue daily stillness has the potential to be, perhaps more than anything else, the very crucible for the world-altering transformation every Christ-following leader is longing for.

Since those early days, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership alongside Ruth’s wise counsel and friendship, has ministered to the entire IJM family and to me in extraordinary ways, teaching us how to seek the restoration of our souls that can lead to the transformation of the world.

How deeply we need this restoration and transformation, and all the more as we move further into the work of the Kingdom and the promise of Jesus that he is, with us, making all things new.


Gary Haugen will be our guest presenter at the 2019 Transforming Community Alumni Retreat. Click here to learn more and to register.


©Gary Haugen, 2018. Adapted from the forward to Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership: Seeking God in the Crucible of Ministry, InterVarsity Press, 2018. (Headers added by Ruth Haley Barton). Not to be reproduced without permission.

Gary Haugen

Gary Haugen is CEO and founder of International Justice Mission. Before founding IJM in 1997, Gary was a human rights attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice. He is the author of several books, including Good News About Injustice; Just Courage; and, most recently, The Locust Effect: Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence.

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