Dr John Calhoun, a research psychologist at the National Institute of Mental Health in the US, set out to prove his theory on the dangers of population overcrowding. He built a cage for the experiment that was designed to contain 160 mice. However, he allowed the population to increase to 2,200.
The cage was an ideal habitat, except for its overcrowded condition. The mice were deprived of privacy, with no time or space to be alone. Since there was no escape, Dr Calhoun was especially interested in how the mice would handle themselves in their crowded environment.
As the population reached its peak, the colony of mice began to disintegrate. Adults formed natural groups of about a dozen individual mice. In these groups each adult mouse performed a particular social role—but there were no roles for healthy young mice. The males who had once protected their territory withdrew from leadership.
The females grew aggressive and forced out the young—including their own offspring—who, in turn, became self-indulgent and lazy. They ate, drank, slept, groomed themselves, but showed no normal aggression and failed to reproduce. After five years, every mouse in the colony had died. The most complex activities for mice, courtship and mating, were the first to cease.
The Lessons From The Mice Experiment
If this was a case study for human society, we would first cease to perform our most complex activities: forming our ideas, goals and values. Although we’re not mice, the experiment conveys a few analogies worth examining.
Though we’ve promised ourselves and the Lord that things would be different this year, many of us continue to wrestle with just being too busy for our own good. We see ourselves pushing too hard, going too fast, trying to do too much as the ‘tyranny of the urgent’ wraps its powerful tentacles around our schedules, even though we know that the secret of knowing God requires us to ‘be still’ (Psalm 46:10). An old Hebrew saying advises to cease striving and let go.
Jesus often took time to be alone with his Father
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Are you aware that a lack of time to be alone with God initiates spiritual disintegration? Learn a lesson from the mice. If you keep up the overcrowded schedule, your young will fail to reproduce the qualities of character that are worth living for—and lose the values of God that are worth dying for. Without quiet, you won’t hear God’s voice calling you to be forgiven from sin.
We need to meet with God—to linger in his presence, to shut out the noise of the crowd and, in quietness, give him the time that he deserves. Slow down and listen to the Lord. You might be surprised at what he says. Carl Jung wrote, “Hurry is not of the devil—hurry is the devil”. In Luke 5:16 we learn that “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”
Why Rest And Solitude Are Important
1. Solitude is a reset button: In his first letter the Apostle John says:
“Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world – wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important – has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from Him. The world and all its wanting, wanting is on the way out – but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity.” (1 John 2:15-17 – The Message)
2. Solitude gives us a chance to hear God: “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). Maybe it’s easy to say that—but there are some practical things that you can do:
- Go for a walk and enjoy the scenery.
- Consider insomnia as an appointment with God—use those times to pray.
- Wake up 15 minutes earlier and read your bible and pray.
- Set a TV curfew for yourself: no TV after 10 pm. Use that time to think and pray and read.
- Take your lunch break at a park or the beach and make time for yourself.
3. Setting priorities allows us to find rest: There’s another really interesting verse in a Psalm that says this:
“It’s useless to rise early and go to bed late and work your worried fingers to the bone. Don’t you know he [God] enjoys giving rest to those he loves?” (Psalm 127:2 – The Message)
So we need to understand that God can speak to us, even though we are in this busy period, busy time, and in a busy world.
The War Cry, May 1999