Be Still and Know

Jeffrey Westbrook

Altavista Journal

Words for Living

Scripture: Psalm 46:10a, “Be still and know that I am God.”

It’s no great secret that we live in an increasingly fast-paced world. And those of us who remember way back might be able to contrast today’s frenetic pace with comparatively “simpler,” bygone times. For instance, those who remember earlier than about 2009 and the ubiquity of the smart phone or even before the mid-1980s and the personal computer era will recognize that as hectic as life was back then, the world has become even more so.

Philosopher Arthur Shopenhauer was a friend of silence. In 1851 he fumed at "the truly infernal cracking of whips" in city streets by teamsters and cabdrivers. The noise, he said, "paralyzes the brain, murders thought and must cause pain to anyone who has anything like an idea in his head."

Writer and scholar C.S. Lewis back in the 1940s complained about the distraction of the radio. In the 1980s author Neil Postman in his book Amusing Ourselves to Death warned of the negative effects of television. So this intrusion of world on our peace of mind is by no means a new phenomenon, but it is accelerating in pace.

People’s reactions to this state of the world today may range from loving it, even in the middle of a big city, to wishing to go off the grid as reclusive homesteaders. What can we do in real life to alleviate the stress of this on-the-go life?

Over the Christmas and New Year holidays, I spent a few weeks in Northeastern Minnesota, visiting the woman I am courting (now my fiancee). The church she attends has an early service prior to the singing, Scripture, and sermon service. This early service is called the Remembrance Meeting, and it focuses on communion and Christ’s sacrificial death. There is no set order of service or pre-arranged schedule; people sit and meditate on their Savior, and from time to time one of the men of the church will read a Scripture passage, lead in a relevant hymn, or share some meditative thoughts.

This form of service took me back to my time in seminary in South Carolina. I attended a church there that also held a remembrance service. The first time experiencing this kind of service, the long silences seemed awkward and uncomfortable. They ran counter to life in today’s world where even in many church services, the pace is brisk with no gaps between singing, praying, or preaching.

I soon began to appreciate these periods of silence and eventually to take delight and refreshment in them. Years later, experiencing these silence-oriented services once again proved to be restorative.

God’s Word exhorts His people to “Be still and know that I am God.” This passage calls us to take a time-out from the craziness of the rat race and do something radically different. This short Biblical sentence provides two commands that, if obeyed, will greatly improve the quality of our Christian walk as well as our overall well-being.

First, it instructs us to be still. Numerous passages in the Bible teach this and related concepts. For instance, Habakkuk 2:20 declares, “The Lord is in His holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before Him.” Hindrances to this stillness come from the world around us and from ourselves - both our participation in the frenzied pace of life and our fear of solitude and discomfort in silence.

To achieve this stillness before the Lord, first find a quiet, noise-free, interruption-free, distraction-free place. Turn off the phone, computer, television, and get away from all the other attention-grabbers. Focus instead on God. Spend time in prayer, Bible reading, and Christian meditation. Many Christians call this devotional time their “Quiet Time.” It ought to involve a time of stillness before the Lord.

While the importance of reading the Bible and praying might be well known, the danger lies in making it a one-sided conversation. In his classic book The Hour of Prayer That Changed the World, Dick Eastman both warns of this tendency and its alternative. He asks, “How long is it since you sat down with great delight in His presence?”

Christian meditation is different from the meditation of other religions or general non-religious meditation. It means not emptying the mind for the sake of an empty mind, but clearing all distractions which keep one from God. Reflect on the Scripture you have read. Reflect on what God has promised, instructed, or taught. Reflect on who God is and His importance in your life. Allow your Quiet Time to be more than just one additional activity in an already full daily schedule. Allow it to be that spiritually quenching water that we need in a dry and dusty spiritual climate.

Next time we will look at the second command in our verse, as well as the results of being still and knowing that the Lord is God.

Jeffrey Westbrook is an ordained minister and former pastor. Although he currently writes for a living, it is still a privilege and honor to write about the Bible and Christian living.