Reframing What it Means to “Be Still”

As a person prone to anxiety, quieting myself before the Lord can be one of my biggest challenges. It somehow feels easier to “do” and get things accomplished than to sit and quiet my mind. Yet there’s something about stilling myself before the Lord that can’t be replicated. It allows me a moment to breathe…in…and…out. Inhaling his Spirit. Exhaling the burdens. It’s in these spaces I give him a chance to be heard over all the noise, all the doing.

Often when I find myself in dry seasons, I realize I’ve had trouble stilling myself. I can easily go through the motions of devotion time with the Lord without actually settling my mind.

Psalm 46: 10 tells us, “Be still and know that I am God.” That sounds so sweet and serene, doesn’t it? But it’s not some cushy recommendation, it’s a command. If we widen the lens a bit, we’ll see that this verse sits near the end of a Psalm, a song if you will. It would have been sung by the worshipping community of the day. It begins with:

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.

verses 1-3 (NIV)

If you continue on, you will see this Psalm is about a people who felt afraid, who feared war and destruction.  It’s a Psalm about trusting in God’s power and might, about not giving in to anxiety because he is the Lord Almighty. When it comes to, “Be still, and know that I am God,” it is not a suggestion. In the original Hebrew, it is a command.

Quiet yourself. Calm yourself. Pay attention!

See and know that he is God. Breathe in and out, knowing he is above everything that comes our way, realizing he will have the final victory. It’s allowing for a moment of reverence. “Silence before God shows reverence.”1 Having reverence for the Lord isn’t about being afraid of him, but it is about exalting him to his proper place and framing ourselves within ours. He is the King of Kings, God Almighty, God-of-Angel-Armies2. And it is because of God being in his proper place, Maker of heaven and earth, Sustainer, Protector, Helper, Comforter, that we don’t have to fear. It is because of who God is that we can breathe, that we can be still.

I can always find something to worry about. Some days life disappoints, and I feel my chest tighten at my inability to control. But Psalm 46 invites us to something more. It invites us to something better. Come, bow down at the feet of our Savior God, still your mind from your worries, and know the God-Most-High still sits on his thrown. Somehow exalting him seems to put things back into perspective.

Though the earth give way and the mountains fall, we need not fear.  

1 NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible
2 The Message Translation phrases “The Lord Almighty” as “God-of-Angel-Armies” in verse 7.