When being still is better than doing something
Updated: Apr 13
We have a hard time being still.
We are a society of doers. "Do something," is our motto.
In this time of quarantine, many of us are wondering what we can do. It is frustrating that the best thing we can do to help our society is to do nothing. But there is much wisdom here.
When Israel was experiencing national trouble, this is what God said to them,
Be still and know that I am God
(Psalm 46:10a, ESV).
This is a counter-intuitive command. Of course it is better to act than to be still, isn't it?
In Israel's history, people accomplished many things and performed many actions. They built walls and temples. They traveled great distances. They engaged in many battles. Some of it was good. Some of it was neutral. Some of it was grave error that plunged the nation into ruin.
But many significant moments in Israel's history happened when its people and leaders, in the midst of crisis and catastrophe, made themselves still before God. Moses did not deliver Israel when he killed the Egyptian, a rash action. He was able to deliver Israel when he was in exile and stillness, talking to God in a burning bush.
Solomon built great wonders. But all of that was made possible when he made sacrifices and offered his prayers in God's presence. It was in stillness that he received his gift of wisdom. This sparked the rise of Israel to the greatest heights in its history.
Jesus was the most productive for God of any human who ever lived. And yet he took time to be still in God's presence. Stillness empowered his action and invited God's anointing on them. His three greatest works, his birth, crucifixion, and resurrection, were not things he did. They were done to him when he allowed himself to be still before God's leadership.
Most of us focus on what we can do. But God is more concerned about what we can be. In God's value system, posture is more important than performance. We look at the externals. God looks into our hearts.
There's panic-buying, but there's also panic-acting. When we are worried, anxious or frightened, we often try to make ourselves feel better by doing something, anything, whether that thing is the best course of action or not. Resist this urge and just stop.
Stillness alone is useless. It is simply inactivity. That's not what God wants. The "and" let's us know that stillness has a further purpose. There is something we can do in stillness that is difficult to do in the midst of activity.
Our mindset, our perspective, our focus, needs to be redirected. We need to remember something we've forgotten, or learn something we did not know. Stillness facilitates knowing in ways that activity does not. And knowing is half the battle.
What should we know? The answer to our problem? Religious doctrine?
What we need to know is not facts and ideas, but a person. The person we need to focus on is not ourselves or our family or our neighbors, but the one speaking, the one directing us in our stillness.
Being reveals being in a way that doing cannot. Who is speaking?
This person we come to know in stillness is God, which helps us remember that we are not. It's not all up to us. We are not the savior. There is one higher and mightier than us, or them, or anyone or anything. He's bigger than our problems. He is there to help. When we are at the end of our rope and strength, there is another who is with us, and his strength does not end.
I know it is hard to be still, especially when so much is happening around us that seems to need our involvement to fix. Times for action will come. But the best actions, the most fruitful ones, come out of stillness, and flow from the knowledge of God. Small deeds done out of stillness often produce fruit that is far greater than a great deal of scurrying around, trying hastily to do anything in the hopes that something will work. Stop panicking. Stop scurrying. Be still and know that God is God. Then do what comes naturally from that place of faith and friendship. God bless your stillness in this challenging season.
You're kidding me. You want an action step after a blog post about stillness? Haha.
Okay, get by yourself in a quiet space. Don't strive. Just be who you are, as you are, with all your thoughts and feelings. But then, focus on God. Invite him to meet with you. And wait for him. Whatever you experience or encounter that is of God, start living into that.
Let us know how it goes!