Be Still

I don’t have to tell you that we live in a fast paced society.  We’re always in a hurry.

Sometimes the events happening around us appear to force us to rush or be left behind.  The frantic environment assumes the notion that the faster we move, the more we can get done and maybe we get ahead. However, I found an exhilarating and yet frightening statement not long ago that forced me to take pause.  It hints at a paradox of life and nature.  This announcement comes from the Bible and like so many biblical verses it’s simple, direct and extremely pithy.  I’m not exaggerating when I say I could write a whole book on this one short sentence.  The simple advice is this, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).  Taken out of context it could be an ominous thought. But taken as intended the wisdom encapsulated in this one sentence is infinite.

Let’s take a minute to comment on the wisdom for living proposed here.  First, the obvious intended proposition is that there is a value in being still, quiet, pausing, meditating.  And there is the heart of the paradox of life.  Being too quick can actually slow you down, working too fast often produces fewer positive results.  In other words, hastily moving just to keep busy may not be the best course of action.  When we have motivating plans and dreams the first impulse is to get started, do something, anything, you’re excited and perhaps impatient wanting to see the results.  But really here is where being still comes in. Take time to meditate. You really should be asking WHY I want to take on its project. WHAT do I want it to look like when finished? HOW can I proceed most efficiently? WHEN does it need to be finished?  I personally attribute a few of my business blunders to not pausing to ponder these questions, as elementary as they seemed, before I committed to proceed.  “Be still” is practical advice.

Now here’s the more powerful part of the Bible’s advice, the second part, “Know that I am God.” This is the encouraging part, the inspiring part.  We’re reminded we don’t have to tackle the task alone.  We can have unexpected assistance if we’re willing to accept the help extended.  The Bible claims elsewhere, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” (Rom 8:28).  What we’re promised is that for a good cause (and I believe you and I are a good cause, and that’s what the God of the Bible says anyway) God will put the forces of the universe at your disposal to assist with a task or problem we might not know even where to begin or couldn’t conceive of all the involved steps. During a time of meditation you’ll maybe recall a relevant idea. A friend may call unexpectedly and suggest an idea in conversation that you hadn’t thought of. I’ve often found myself reading a magazine or even the Bible and a verse “just happens to pop out” that gives me the direction I needed at the moment. That’s exactly what happened to me not long ago when I first recalled the “Be Still” directive.  I was in the hospital, flat on my back with no end of suffering in sight.  Either someone reminded me or I happened to recall these exact words, “Be still and know that I am God.”  I could just feel at that moment those words were meant for me as if they were directed to me and me alone.  Over the next 3 months in the hospital I repeated the phrase as an affirmation penned just to me.   I knew exactly what I had to do, I had to be still and be patient.  Nothing I could personally do would hasten my healing.  My body was so weak I didn’t have the strength to do anything that might give me confidence that I would recover.  The only thing I could do, and I could do it just as easily flat on my back as anywhere, “Know that I (He) am God.”  Every time I repeated that affirmation as if it were a prayer, I felt  the comfort intended for me.  The sensation of a quiet confidence welled up in me as if the sensation was talking to me, “Paul, you can’t do it alone.  Paul, just be patient and still.  Paul, you’ll get all the support you require, your friends are praying for you, you’ve got the best doctors and nurses, don’t you feel my energy, my spirit converging on you?”  And when I repeated, “Know that I am God” I was literally forced to believe what it was intimating to me, “Know that you’ll recover.”

Psalm 46  will always be special to me. But I know that something will be happening in your life, dear reader and friend, either sooner or later where you’ll really require the reminder to “Be still.”  Learn it now, repeat it often!  I can guarantee when you get sick and the doctors admit they can’t give you a certain diagnosis or you lose your job and none seems to be able to direct your next step, or your friend leaves willfully or unwillingly with her last breathe, you’ll need these words.  Don’t wait for such a crossroads in life.  Practice it now.  So you’re having a personality problem at work, don’t be anxious. Be still and expect you can get divine wisdom if you’re patient.  You’re having problems paying your bills, be still and know help is available from some source, government or social service.  But ultimately it will arrive, I believe, under divine auspices, if you open yourself to the possibility.

As I remarked at the outset, there’s so much more that can be added as a commentary to our verse. On another occasion we’ll talk about Jesus’ words of wisdom about anxiety and how being still is the anecdote, but for now I have one passing observation that may be, for some of you, the most profound practical thought on stillness.

I think it’s self evident that racing through life without pausing and meditating inhibits you from enjoying the scenery.  The beauty becomes a blur.  The moments of ecstasy are few and fleeting. What are you missing? The sequence is critical here. First be still, then stop and meditate, next comes appreciation of the beauty and enigmatic nature of life, then comes happiness.  Yes, the key to happiness, whether you’ve ever realized it, is thankfulness and appreciation.  In fact, scripture stresses this idea often.  Col 2:7 says, “continue to live in him…strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”  I won’t provide all the scientific studies and scriptural references to verify the claim, one of my future articles will, but suffice it to say true happiness requires thankfulness and thankfulness comes with thoughtfulness. Thoughtfulness takes time, time to be still.

So simple yet so profound.  Be still, see the flowers and enjoy.  Even if you can’t seem to see them at the moment, know that they are there hiding.  Be still and you’ll find them.