How do you begin your day? With a cup of coffee and a quick bagel? What about the evening? Is it all rushing to help with homework or finish chores? Are the hours in between jam-packed with activities and commitments that keep you hustling? It may surprise you to know that God has other plans for you. “Be still, and know that I am God,” the Psalmist insists (Psalm 46:10). And note that being still isn’t an option, but a prerequisite.
Scripture tells us that our beauty before God “should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit” (1 Peter 3:4). Yet few of us, if pressed, can honestly say that what we see when we look into our hearts is a consistently smooth and serene scene.
We see ripples and waves, surprising currents and sometimes even riptides! And though Jesus is capable of calming the sea-surge in our hearts by saying, “Quiet! Be still!” (Mark 4:39), all too often we’re not as obedient as the waves. Instead of hearing his voice, we hear the noise of our worries, our fears and our desires. These things plug up our ears, and in our search for comfort we focus on what we have to say, instead of on what Jesus does.
If you find yourself struggling with life, remember, “The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exodus 14:14). But how do we train ourselves to be still? How do we “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts” (Colossians 3:15) when we are so preoccupied that our hearts are never silent?
In pre-GPS days, often the only what to get to where you were going was to ask directions. In the spiritual life we can avoid driving in circles by asking the Holy Spirit to show us how to “be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him” (Psalm 37:7). And we can use Scripture to map out the route to peace.
Before we begin to plead with God to help us with our problems, we can pray with the Psalmist, “For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him” (Psalm 62:5). We can breathe deeply, inhaling the Spirit that gives us life. I sometimes take belly-expanding breaths to the rhythm of, “Come Holy Spirit…bring me peace.” It helps.
Once our souls are calmer, we can’t just turn to our laundry list of things we want. To pray is to focus our hearts on God, not on our desires. Listening — really listening — is what Scripture tells us to do after we allow God to open our hearts: “The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice” (John 10:3). This is “a time to be silent”; we must listen first, before we arrive at the “time to speak” (Ecclesiastes 3:7).
There are many ways we can open ourselves up to that peace throughout the day. Sometimes, like Mary of Bethany, we need to open our Bibles and sit “at the Lord’s feet listening” (Luke 10:39). Other times we need to have what I like to call a “Deuteronomy day” where in the midst of our hectic schedules we take time to recall how God has acted in and through our lives. This helps us “Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way” (Deuteronomy 8:2) — which helps us look for him in the present moment. Like Jesus’ mother, who “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19), we need to hold close to the things God has revealed to us. This process of silencing our hearts, then listening, then pondering what we’ve learned slowly leads to absorbing God’s will fully, fully enough that whatever we do is a natural out-flowing of our knowledge of him.
What’s on your agenda for today? Perhaps you need to add one more thing: “Be still, and know that God is God.”