Nobody likes being told what to do but rules are a necessary part of life because rules keep us safe and create order where there would typically be chaos. I mean, can you imagine driving down the busiest street in town with no traffic laws? It would not only be a nightmare but also deadly. We know these rules are essential and put in place to help us navigate. In the same way, we also know the Lord has given laws, rules and guidelines throughout history to help us navigate life so to speak and I bet if I asked you to name a commandment from the Lord the first thing that would come to your mind would be one of the Ten Commandments found in Exodus 20 or perhaps you would immediately think of the Great Commandment found in Matthew 22 that says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Or perhaps it’s the Golden Rule, also found in Matthew 22, of loving your neighbor as yourself, that would come to mind.
Regardless of what comes to mind, these are all wonderful life directing rules and like any sinner I have had my fair share of struggles with many of them but for me the hardest commandment I have ever come across is not found in the stringent regulations of the Old Testament law or the gentle precepts of the New Testament narrative but rather in Psalm 46:10. The command is simply put, “Be still and know that I am God.”
Be still...those two words make me antsy. I’m a DOer. A list maker. A planner. Even when I’m being a complete bum sitting on the couch watching TV I’m doing something else. (Probably making a list to be honest.) I don’t do silence well. I live alone with two very vocal felines and I always have a podcast playing on my phone, music on the record player or a documentary on the television. There is always something in the background even if I’m not truly listening it is there filling the gap. In fact, one of the few times I sit in true silence is when I am writing this blog. I get easily distracted and off track by all that goes on around me so silence is necessary to write and maybe that is the point of the verse. God wants us to get away from the distractions that will draw us away from His presence. Things that will distract us or even scare us.
Many years ago we had a revival of sorts at church and I remember the leader asking us during that week to follow a guided quiet time that included a significant amount of meditation. Like, we were asked to sit quietly before the Lord without reading the scriptures or singing a hymn or praying. Just being still. That was the most stressful quiet time I had ever experienced and let me tell you I would literally sit there trying to “listen” for God’s voice only to find my mind had wandered to the pile of laundry in the corner that needed sorting or the grocery list that needed making or the prayer request that was on my mind. All the concerns and tasks in my life seemed to be screaming at me. None of those things are bad but why was it so difficult to just sit still with the Lord? I will gladly lose myself for ages talking to the Lord through prayer but it’s the sitting and listening that I find difficult.
Looking back, I think I finally realized that it made me uncomfortable to sit without filling my time and space with “something” that felt tangible. Now, I truly believe you have to learn to just clear your mind and just be but there is something to be said for just sitting before the Lord during your quiet time. To not rush through the motions and actually wait to hear from the Lord. I also have found that in those moments of being still the things that continue to come to mind are the very things the Lord is wanting to chat with me about. The worries that are taking over, the burdens on my heart and the places I’m scared to tread. Those “interruptions” are very telling in themselves and the Lord knows that. (Ironically, there I sat trying to be “quiet” so I could hear from the Lord but missing that in the quietness the Lord was speaking to me. I was so concerned with being quiet that I tried to hush the Holy Spirit. Insane!)
If you look at the context of verse ten within Psalm 46 you can see that this command came at the end of a reminder.
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Come and see what the Lord has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”
Verse one is well-known, within the church and without. It reminds us that “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” These words have brought comfort in the midst of chaos for centuries. Personally, I will forever associate this verse with the tornado that tore through my college campus several years back. Buildings were demolished. Students were injured but the bible in the chapel was found open to this passage. A reminder in the midst of chaos…
However, the author doesn’t just offer this reminder but compiles a list of reasons why placing your trust and faith in the Lord is a worthy venture. He is not only described as a refuge and help but a fortress for those who call to him. I love that we are given reassurances before we are told to just BE STILL and if you doubt the author of this Psalm don’t forget the promise of Moses in Exodus 14:14, “ The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” We can rest in being still because we know who is with us in the stillness. We are safe. Shielded. Sheltered.
I also love that the verse doesn’t end there but goes on to say, “...and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” There’s a purpose behind the resting and that is to KNOW God not to just be present with him but to truly know Him. Have you ever seen someone having a completely one sided conversation? I went out with a guy once who refused to contribute to the dialogue. Any questions I asked would be met with one word answers that provided less information than the back of a cereal box. In an effort to avoid the awkward silence I chattered away like a Magpie to no avail. He was extremely nice and seemed to enjoy the date but at the end of the night he had my life story and all I knew about him was that he was a coach with some siblings. (No clue how many or what kind!) Just because we spent time together didn’t mean we knew each other and it surely didn’t foster a relationship. I don’t want my time with God to have the same outcome.
The Father knows our lives and our hearts. We are always running...always moving. We are doing great things by fulfilling our purpose and loving others but sometimes the Lord just needs us to sit down in the midst of the storm and find the calm. Find Him. The eye of the hurricane so to speak. So, the next time you feel the Father asking you to be still before Him it might be that He has something He really needs you to hear with no distractions or maybe He’s been trying to answer that prayer you keep repeating but you just haven’t heard Him. Pay attention to that tug on your heartstrings even if you are uncomfortable in the silence. The Father of all creation is wanting to spend time with you!
Helpful Hint: This tip comes directly from Priscilla Shirer. Keep a notebook or piece of scratch paper with your quiet time stuff and anytime a distraction comes up write it down. That way you won’t have to worry about forgetting it and you can “let it go” for the moment. This has saved me in the midst of sermons, devotions and prayers by taking away the distraction for that moment. So simple, yet beyond helpful.