How to Be Still before God in a Restless Culture
We live in a restless world. Entertainment is at our fingertips, shopping is done at any hour, and information flies by us at unprecedented rates. So how do we obey a God who says, “Be still, and know that I am God...” (Psalm 46:10). We can train and discipline our actions, but we must make sure to address the heart, for if our hearts are restless, stillness will always elude us.
We live in a restless world. Entertainment is at our fingertips, shopping is done at any hour, and information flies by us at unprecedented rates. So how do we obey a God who says, “Be still, and know that I am God...” (Psalm 46:10). Scheduling and routine are helpful tools. Talking to God before we pick up our phone and giving thanks before we close our eyes are righteous habits. We can train and discipline our actions, but we must make sure to address the heart, for if our hearts are restless, stillness will always elude us.
Love: to Silence the Busyness
When we are striving to justify our own existence, we will not be still before God. The only way to have a spirit of rest within us is to know that we are loved, and nothing will change that.
Ashley Hales reminds us when we’re too busy that, “When we get sucked into busy it’s often because we’re trying to do it all and be it all. The good thing about being God’s child is that we have nothing to prove. Busy will never get us to be loved. In Jesus’ Kingdom the way up is down. Instead of climbing ladders, let’s learn how to sit, how to remain humble, and ask for help — from God and from others.”
Some of the busiest people we see in the gospels are the Pharisees. They are so focused on earning their position in society and righteousness that most of them completely mistook the Messiah for a man of blasphemy. What a tragedy: to be so involved in religious activity, defending political positions, and securing a space in society that you completely mistake the one who loves you perfectly and without any pretense as an enemy. Where we place our energy and time shows a lot about the state of our souls. The ones who live knowing that they are loved no matter what, live in freedom that produces rest.
Once we have sought Jesus Christ as our savior from the deep sin that tries to control and destroy us, nothing that we do changes who we are as children of God. Trying to earn his love is a waste of time; it is already ours. “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).The demands of culture and careers may try to overtake us, but “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37-39).
Humility: to Calm the Worry
In the gospels, we see the disciples were often under unnecessary stress. They fretted that they didn’t have enough food, that the children would bother Jesus, and that Jesus crossed cultural boundaries. They loved Jesus and sought to offer him care, to make sure he was aware of his circumstances while also forgetting that he is God. Don’t we do the same? We forget that Jesus is God and we get stressed out! We worry we won’t have enough, that the waves of life will crash too strong, and that Jesus will forget the inquiries we’ve breathed out in the midst of the busyness of trying to control our own destinies.
Being still before God reminds us that our savior is the one who calms the seas, heals the blind and ransoms the debtor's soul. Worry robs us of the power that comes from acknowledging that God is God and no set of circumstances could, can, or ever will change that. It keeps our mind meditating on how things can go wrong or how we can strive to make them go right, it does not send us into the presence of a mighty God who can part seas and raise the dead. In order to silence the worry so we can be still before God, we need to possess humility.
Many people prone to anxiousness have been told to give their concerns to God, but the verse that precedes that command gives us the key to do so, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7).We will not, cannot, give the uncertainties closest to our hearts to God unless we are certain he is more powerful than ourselves. To be still before him we must acknowledge this with all our heart, mind, and soul.
Trust: When Questions of “Why?” Linger
We have complex emotions when we see the horror of violence usher souls into eternity or pain. Whether it be war, natural disasters, or domestic terrorism, when we look at society it becomes obvious to us that we cannot guarantee the safety of ourselves or those we love. We grieve because there has been loss and we long for justice to be satisfied. We make escape plans, prep emergency supplies, and wisely make sure we are prepared for disaster because we know the truth—we live in a fallen world. Tragedy does strike. God could have stopped it. We don’t get to know why he didn’t.
This tension we feel as people of faith does not exist primarily in global or national tragedy, we feel its strain most when personal woe is woven into the stories we thought surely would have a happy ending. When someone we thought was safe proved they were not, when we thought there would be more time with one we loved, or when the dream we chased suddenly shifted to a nightmare, emotionally we become either angry or still.
If we decide God is not worthy of our trust (even though he is) fear will quickly step in. It will cause us to flee from the presence of God bitter and lonely. We accuse God of leaving us, of not keeping us safe, and we don’t know what to do with the feelings at war within us. We want desperately to return to the safety of trusting God, but the feelings we have towards him will keep us from going to him. These feelings bring the world’s restlessness ever closer to our hearts, so we must confront them with the truth of Scripture.
When Moses climbed Mount Sinai and met with God to receive the ten commandments, he had witnessed much death and destruction. Plagues, a hardened Pharaoh, and an enslaved people all dwelt in his memories. And yet, as Moses went into the presence of God we don’t see God offer explanation after explanation so Moses can have peace, we see God remind Moses who he is “And he [the LORD] passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, ‘The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness’” (Exodus 34:6).Finding stillness before God has little to do with getting our fears soothed and questions answered and more to do with simply trusting God to be God.
When Moses came to the end of his life he didn’t give the next leader, Joshua, how-to suggestions; he told him instead what we all must hold to, “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deuteronomy 31:8).
The great news about learning to be still before God or in anything we do is that our great and powerful, mighty God has already gone before us. We need only to quiet our noisy hearts, and he will be there to meet with us.
Chara Donahue is a co-author of the Bible study 1, 2 & 3 John: Experiencing Transformation and is working on her next book. She enjoys serving as a biblical counselor, speaking to women, and savoring coffee when her four kids are out playing with dad. She holds an MSEd from Corban University, is passionate about seeing people set free through God's truths, and is the founder and editor of Anchored Voices. Get in touch with her on Facebook or Twitter.
Photo Credit: Unsplash/Sylas Boesten