The world has stilled.
Our once overstuffed calendars now have square after empty square of whitespace. Stores are shuttered, workplaces and school rooms have moved into homes, parks are unused except for a few scattered dog walkers.
We no longer have the rush of early mornings out the door, afternoon carpools and playdates, evening extracurriculars and weekend plans. Sunday services happen whenever we hit play on our laptops while we lounge on pillows and couches in the living room.
Scientists who record seismic activity have noted a huge drop in vibrations caused by humans and a world so quiet, unnoticed wildlife sounds have returned to cities.
Our world has been forced to be still.
I wonder if we could say the same for our emotions?
Dealing with massive change, navigating the unexpected and facing unknowns ahead have left us stressed and anxious.
We’re reeling from disappointment and grief as well: missing once-in-a-lifetime graduations, trips and weddings and separated from loved ones and community.
It’s in this kind of uncertainty, upheaval and unrest, that Psalm 46:10 tells us to “Be still and know that I am God.”
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What does it mean to be still and know I am God?
The instruction to be still in Hebrew means to let go, stop striving, slacken and let drop.
It’s a picture of loosening our clenched grip on the circumstances and outcome and trusting God who’s sovereign over both.
I’m the first to admit that being still goes against my instinct. We are fixers. We want to make it happen and just keep pushing through.
But the call to be still is a call to surrender.
It means giving up the myth of control to depend wholly on God.
But to be still doesn’t mean doing nothing.
In fact, it’s when we’re still that we have space for these 5 things:
We cannot worry when we are worshipping. Psalm 46 is a song of praise beginning with who God is. “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” Worship reaffirms that God is on the throne and in control. Worship ushers us into the presence of God, where we find comfort and strength. In worship, we become less and the things of this world grow dim as God is exalted.
One of my college friends was super excited to spend her summer overseas on mission. When she arrived, she was assigned to the nursery tending babies – not exactly the edgy missions work she’d envisioned. But in long hours rocking babies and giving bottles, she grew a deep prayer life. She said she was forever changed and grateful for the gift of time to pray deeply.
When our calendars and hearts are stilled, we have time to pray deeply. Jesus modeled this throughout his earthly ministry, often getting up while it was still dark or going off alone to pray. While great crowds pressed to hear him and be healed, “Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.” (Luke 5:16)
When we’re still, we can remember God’s flawless record of faithfulness. Psalm 46:8 says “Come and see what the Lord has done.” We remember two ways. First, by getting into the Word, where we’re reminded of God’s character, his miracles, his provision. Second, we remember what God’s done for us personally. God has not gotten us this far to drop us now.
Joshua at the end of his life reminded Israel of God’s constant faithfulness leading them out of Egypt, through the Red Sea, in the wilderness and into the Promised Land. “Now I am about to go the way of all the earth. You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the LORD your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed.” Joshua 23:14
Give thanks in all circumstances, God tells us. And once we begin, we see with fresh eyes God’s goodness all around us. That God is tenderly caring for us and threading the details of every delay and every setback to accomplish a will more perfect than we could ask or imagine.
God is good and God does good and when we stop to count our blessings, we realize what we thought mundane is rich indeed. We see that God’s grace and provision, love and kindness has not been merely sufficient, but extravagant.
Even when we’re still God is at work. Though we may not see what God is doing, we can be certain God is working every circumstance to accomplish his desires.
This was never more true than on Holy Saturday. Jesus had died and been buried and as the Sabbath began, the disciples could only be still and wait. How defeated they must have felt. But in that Saturday stillness, God fulfilled his eternal plan as Jesus experienced death on our behalf and then defeated death! In our stillness, are we looking for God’s hand?
Regardless of the circumstances that swirl around us, we can still our hearts to worship, pray, remember, thank and watch.