My mind is wired to always be going, even if my body is not. While I’m a firm believer in a Sunday afternoon nap (my standard Fathers’ Day gift request), being mentally still just isn’t in my personality. Multitasking is kind of my starting point, and when I get too many windows up on the computer, I sometimes shift them around so that I can see more at once. (Three monitors helps, too.) Or, I’ll wrestle with a new idea for work at night, and start writing it out the next morning.
As a result, although I’ve taught and written about the following verse, I don’t actually do a good job of practicing it:
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
Psalms 46:10 NIV
Taken by itself, this verse is valuable, but it seems kind of blunt: It sounds like God is telling everyone to just stop and bask in who He is. That’s actually not a bad idea, though. Since God is so great that we can – and will – spend eternity appreciating His presence, getting a head-start while we’re still here on earth certainly seems like a great way to prepare for that. Contemplating God’s nature also reminds us who God is, and that brings everything back into perspective.
However, in context of the rest of this Psalm, we find more than just this instruction. We also discover a reason why it’s OK to be still. It isn’t merely about rest for ourselves (although pausing to spend time with God can provide the “recharge” that we need) or just informing God who He is (hint: He already knows, but it’s still good for us to praise Him for that).
The other verses of this Psalm explain that “He makes wars cease” (verse 9) and “the God of Jacob is our fortress” (verses 7 and 11). The reason that we can be still in the first place is because we don’t have to worry about winning the battle: God has already taken care of it. While we may be part of God’s plan in the the triumph of good over evil, He’s already secured the victory.
When I stop and think about why I stay busy all of the time, it’s usually for one of two reasons: In some cases, I believe that there is so much to do, that if I don’t do it, it won’t get done. In other cases, I want to drive out extraneous or unwanted thoughts from my head, so I fill up my mind with as much information as I can.
Praise be to God that He gives us answers to both of these counter-arguments in this Psalm. In the first situation, where I worry that I have to fix things, God has already done what needs to be done. If He intends to make use of my work for His plan, He is more than capable of telling me what to do, but verses like this one remind me that if God told us to be still, He’s certainly able to take care of what needs to be done, even when we stop in obedience to Him.
And, in the second situation, being still and knowing that God is God isn’t about letting the ugly voices in our heads take over in the silence. Instead, by turning off the noise around us and focusing on Him, we find a perfect replacement for the other messages that barrage our minds. Being still isn’t about driving out junk from our minds; it’s about filling them up with the knowledge and presence of God. Then, as when we fill up with God, the junk gets washed out in the process.
So, it might be scary, but I invite you to take some time to saturate your mind with thoughts about God and His word today, away from the mess and chaos of the world. Being alone with our own thoughts (without friends, social media, or news broadcasts telling us what to think) might take some practice, but when we focus those thoughts on God’s perfect nature, and what He has to tell us, it will be well worth the time.
Originally written to accompany the July 2021 sermon series, “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb”, at First Christian Church, Canton, OH. Republished by permission.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.