We live in a hectic world. A friend of mine once quipped, “I’m in this world’s way.” His point was that drivers were always in a hurry cutting him off in traffic, zig-zagging past car after car to get somewhere fast. Once at work, his colleagues constantly one-upped him in their vain efforts to get noticed. His experience is not unique. Most of us who commute to work each morning can sympathize with his feelings.
Added to the chaos of our morning commute is the constant feed of Tweets, Updates, Stories, and Alerts. Life—like the people living it—gets crazy. Neither FOX nor CNN can help. They’re in a constant cycle of one over-hyped political crisis after another: Democrats against Republicans; Liberals against Conservatives; Far Right against the Far Left; each group increasing the tension.
The world itself is filled with the ongoing anxiety of hate and terror. There are wars and rumors of wars from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.
No wonder anxiety appears to be snowballing in the U.S.
As crazy as life gets “out there,” the real truth is that life is even more intense on the inside. Typically, our anxiety levels increase most as a result of relationship problems in our families; problems in our marriages; problems with our children; problems at work with colleagues and supervisors. And above all else—we have problems in our own souls as we wrestle with disappointments, defeats, frustrations, and fears.
If you resonate with these tensions and long for some kind of peace, you might try simply being still.
Let America’s best theologian offer some help. In a sermon titled The Sole Consideration, which he preached in June of 1735, Jonathan Edwards pointed his hearers to this passage: “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). About this psalm Edwards says,
If you knew this, you would be inwardly still and quiet; you would humbly and calmly lie in the dust before a sovereign God, and would see sufficient reason for it.
The revelation of God is so great that it leaves the believer feeling too small to stay above ground. And yet, we live above ground, so our only response is a low bow. Like Moses in Exodus 34, we make haste to bow low before the Lord. Edwards notes that the psalm was written at a time like ours, when circumstances were fearful. Edwards points out that the psalm was written “in a time of great revolutions and desolations in the world.” According to Edwards (and Psalm 46), God’s people can be still in a chaotic world.
How does being still help? The help comes in two ways.
First, as Edwards points out, a proper view of God puts the soul in a state of complete rest before God’s sovereignty. Many people suffer anxiety and fear because they believe they can’t be alone. Like wildebeests, many folks need to be in a crowd—or if not in a crowd at least with a companion. Part of the anxiety of aloneness is the natural state of knowing “my soul is not right with God.” In other words, this fear of being alone reminds us—like Adam and Eve—that we are naked before God and need to find some cover: if not a fig leaf, then a crowd of others will do. This effort is futile.
The soul can’t hide from God. The beauty of Psalm 46:10 is that the soul—even the sinful soul—does not have to hide from God. God makes a way for sinful souls to have fellowship with him, but it demands faith that HE IS GOD. Such faith begins with a humble bow and calm stillness before His greatness.
The psalmist says, “Be still AND know that I am God.” Edwards points out that the soul can be both brought low before a highly exalted God AND be completely still and calm. Though the soul is calm and still, it remains very much alive (maybe even more alive than when surrounded by a boisterous crowd). Since God is described as a holy, all-consuming fire, being still before Him takes faith and courage. But such a bold faith gets rewarded with a calm and unshakable stillness.
Second, The soul that is still like this before God is helped to “sober up.” What I mean by this is that stillness before God has a way of helping us think rightly about ourselves. Inside, we struggle with our failures and either try to overcome them or assume the fatalist retreat into “I just can’t help it… it’s who I am.”
The truth of being sober and still before God reveals two important facts: (1) I am actually not the center of the universe; (2) God is! The weight of the world—and even the weight of my inner failures—is on God’s shoulders, not mine. God’s got it under control. I am inadequate to stand in his presence, yet he does not wish to condemn me to death. He makes a way for me to be still and know that he is God.
What if today you give it a try? Find a quiet place to be alone and just stop. Quote Psalm 46:10. And don’t do anything. Just stop. Be still.
After a time of being still, you can sing a verse or two of the great hymn Be Still My Soul…
Be still, my soul: the Lord is on your side;
bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
leave to your God to order and provide;
in ev’ry change he faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: your best, your heav’nly Friend
through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
Even better than that hymn is Jesus’s own invitation for you to rest with him in God’s presence:
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30, ESV).
Be still. He is God.