I'm not very good at being still. I'm quite antsy in fact. At any hour on any given day, you might find me at half a dozen different work stations or walking somewhere in between.
My mind isn't still either. It travels from this thought to that in a not very linear fashion. Less a stream of thought, more a bunch of rivers swirling into the mouth of an ocean called my mind.
All that is happening, and then along trots the Psalmist, who I imagine to be some introspective coffee shop loner, that reminds us on behalf of the LORD, "Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."
The world we live in doesn't like still. And frankly, most pictures we get of Jesus, our model, aren’t exactly pictures of him being alone and contemplative. So with that in mind, how are we to heed such advice from this psalmist? How can we practice his bit of wisdom?
The discipline to be still and acknowledge the Lord reminds us that it’s not our default response when we get busy. The underlying communication here seems to be that we can get busy and actually forget that God is in our midst.
With the onset of the fall season, my responsibilities have increased. Not as much as some productive superstars out there, but nonetheless an adjustment to me in terms of managing my time and productivity level.
Do I have time to be still? Should I wake up earlier or stay up later to be still and acknowledge God? Should I be building these moments into my unpredictable day? And then what exactly does it mean to be still and know that God is God? Can that happen in a couple minutes? Do I need an hour? When do I know I’ve done it and can move on?
We have to ask ourselves honest questions when we approach a text like this that we’ve heard many times before. And we have to make the disciplined decision to practice it and let the benefit unfold over time.
In the midst of all the demands on Jesus to meet critical needs for people in his midst, he did take time to be still. Luke 6:12 tells us, “In these days [Jesus] went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.” Jesus isolated himself and took time to pray - all night.
He prioritized staying fit to do God’s work, even over sleep. We can only imagine what this 10-12 hours would have looked like. Was he remembering the encounters he had that day and deciding how to train his disciples to handle those in need? Was he strengthening himself to be prepared for the need he would face the following day? Was he warding off temptations to take on power or simply walk away from all the demands? We don’t know exactly, but we know that he comes out the next morning fully engaged and ready to serve and invite others into serving alongside him.
We have to believe that taking time, losing sleep, to be still and acknowledge the Lord will actually energize us and contribute to our sense of productivity. It will help us to prioritize what matters most each day. It will helps us to not mindlessly task away, but remember the kindness and benefit we can show to others who are on the other side of those tasks.
There are so many small things that can change if we choose to regularly be still and acknowledge God in the midst of them. From serving tables at a restaurant to working an after-school program with underprivileged kids. We can begrudgingly endure them or engage and inspire those we serve. For the latter, the prerequisite: be still and acknowledge the Lord.
When we quiet ourselves and acknowledge the Lord, he will be promoted (exalted) as worthy of our time and attention. And if more believers quiet themselves in his presence, he can even be promoted all over the world. It’s not that he needs our attention to feel good about himself. It’s that he loves us. He knows that his children quieting themselves and focusing on him will lead to peace, health, life. He is the source of all of those things, and without drawing from his stream, we all end up dry and tired in this busy whirlwind of a life.
I invite you to join me in choosing to do what Jesus, our example, modeled for us--quieting down, focusing our minds, and acknowledging who the Lord is in our lives.