Be Still: A Word For Those Who've Forgotten How
Written by Jessie Hansen | Prayer Room Staff
For just a second pause your reading, quiet your thoughts, and still your movements.
What do you hear?
What do you feel?
So often we get caught up in the rush of the day. When the alarm goes off in the morning we’re jerked out of sleep and into pouring that first cup of coffee, pulling shirts and pants from the closet, crunching down a piece of toast and heading out the door. We move from responsibility to activity to ministry in a constant rush of motion all the while bombarded by information.
Text message with a funny picture from a family member.
Frantic phone call from a friend who is in a bind and doesn’t know what to do.
For Sale sign in the yard of a house three blocks down the street.
Radio station singing over cars accelerating and trucks exhaling.
On the interstate: Little Debbie dressed in sports gear followed by constant reminders of how many people have died on the roads in Tennessee this year.
Buzz after buzz as the phone registers new emails flooding in before the car even pulls into the parking lot at work.
Experts argue over the exact number of ad messages we encounter per day, but it is at the very least 500. Some extend that window to a possible 5,000 messages per day. These aren’t necessarily ads we pay attention to, but we are exposed to them. Our subconscious brains take them in, process them, keep relevant information and discard the rest or store them inside until later when there is time to do so.
The problem is we seldom leave time each day to process the things we have experienced in the previous 16 hours, let alone take in each moment as it comes. Instead, our minds live almost constantly in the future in order for us to keep up with the pace of the present. In light of this, it’s no wonder that when we stop and force ourselves to be still, unprocessed emotions, to-do lists, and random thoughts fill our minds to overflowing, making it virtually impossible to be still.
Oh, how our constant motion flies in the face of the command we are given in Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.” This verse is strewn across our homes on cute canvases from Hobby Lobby, it’s posted on church signs. We have grown so familiar with it that we’ve lost the context and the meaning.
Psalm 46 starts out by declaring that because God is our refuge we don’t have to be afraid when we encounter earthquakes so strong that mountains fall into the ocean, causing tsunamis. The writer states that nations are enraged, kingdoms are falling, and when God speaks the earth melts. At the end of this intense chapter, after reminding us multiple times that it is a good thing the Lord is on our side, he quotes the Lord directly: “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”
It’s clear. “Be still and know that I am God” is not a sweet encouragement to think about the fact that God exists. It is a command in the midst of the craziest things life could throw at us to bring our lives to a screeching halt (and yes, when we attempt this there is much screeching).
Be still. The New American Standard translation actually says, “Cease striving”. It’s an order not just to our bodies, but to our minds, hearts, and emotions if we are to truly follow the first and greatest commandment: love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. This charge to be still and know that He is God carries two parts separated by the conjunction AND which signals that we don’t get to choose which one to do, we are commanded both. I would argue that the order is also important. It is impossible to actually KNOW that He is God without first ceasing striving and becoming still because the Hebrew word for “know” used here can be further understood to mean “to learn to know’; “to recognize, admit, acknowledge, confess”; and “to know by experience.” This is not something that takes place in the span of a moment when this verse comes to mind. It happens through conscious time spent in the presence of the Lord that leads to a lifestyle fueled by peace and wisdom rather than anxiety and fear.
In my experience we are far too good at making the Christian life about dedicating a little time to God and a lot of time to godly activities. A.W. Tozer, in his book The Pursuit of God, put it this way as he was describing the Christian society of his day:
We have been trying to apply machine-age methods to our relations with God. We read our chapter, have our short devotions and rush away, hoping to make up for our deep inward bankruptcy by attending another gospel meeting or listening to another thrilling story told by a religious adventurer lately returned from afar.
There is nothing wrong with pouring our life and love into the things God has called us to do. Yet, there is something very wrong when those activities become the center of our orbit rather than the pursuit of knowing, experiencing, and acknowledging God Himself for who He is and allowing Him to change us in the process. What we behold we become. What we contemplate, what we perceive, what we feast our eyes on we become.
What are the eyes of your heart dwelling on today? Is your gaze directed at the billboard announcements, television ads, “hurry-up-and-do” lists? Has fear glued your focus to the things you must do in order to prevent failure and loss? Is a set of binoculars magnifying your hopes and worries for next month, next year, and five years down the road? Or in the midst of all the uncertainties, struggles, and joys of the present moment have you lifted your face to look upon the Unchanging One – the Beginning and the End – who created galaxies and who has written your name on the palms of His hands?
“I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. […] Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” (Psalm 34:4-5, 8 ESV)