Stillness Is Not About Zen

I read an article recently that told me I should always feel encouraged by Scripture. That sounds like a great plan, except for the fact that the Word of God is not a book of feel-good stories. In the Old Testament, we see a history of people – real, human people – clumsily, messily working their way through life until the coming of their promised Savior. They took one step forward and two steps back, if they were lucky enough to take a step forward at all. By the time I make it to the New Testament, I’m desperate for Jesus to come fix this mess! My heart gets heavy with each parallel I see between sin in the cultures of the Bible and sin in our world today. “Have we learned nothing?” is my most common thought. Often I walk away from Scripture feeling the weight of human depravity; I can leave it feeling disheartened.

The encouragement in Scripture comes in remembering that even in the midst of the most disturbing realities, in the midst of humanity’s greatest rebellions, God is.

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling.  

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.

The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.  

Come, behold the works of the Lord,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”

The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Psalm 46, ESV

“Be still and know that I am God.” Often when I hear this verse, I hear it in isolation. I get a mental image of the psalmist sitting cross-legged in a peaceful, sunny meadow, a soft breeze fluttering the tall grass and look of serenity on his face.

But look at this passage. This is not written for someone in a place of sabbath rest; this is for those stuck in the trenches! “Though the waters roar and foam”… and “He burns the chariots with fire”… This is the reminder we need when the world feels like it is falling down around us.

Sometimes, the truth of God being God is the only thing that can combat the chaos – and it doesn’t stop with us merely feeling encouraged. Stillness is not a call to passivity, but a call to active dependance and remembrance: active rest. In our stillness, we can see his power, and so can everyone else. In our stillness, he is exalted in all the earth and we are blessed as we wait on Him (Isaiah 30:18).

Do you hear that good news? When the world is falling down and you feel overwhelmed, when it’s more than you can bear and you don’t know what to do: be still, be with our God, and watch him be glorified.

I encourage you to take 60 seconds right now and ask God to exalt Himself in your mind and heart.

“The Lord of hosts is with us;

The God of Jacob is our fortress.”

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