“Be still!” I can still hear it today like it was yesterday, but I remember it now for a different reason.
It seemed like my second grade teacher, Mrs. Holsher, had this phrase on some sort of high frequency loop, and it was usually directed at me.
I specifically remember this admonition, not just because of the number of times I heard it, or the funny way she said it, but because of the context in which it was conveyed.
I generally heard “be still” when I was talking, not literally moving around, which I thought was curious. I guess my skepticism was linked to her perspective on what I was actually doing. If I wasn’t actually out of my seat, or otherwise wiggling around, how was it relevant to be – still?
Clearly, I missed the overarching point of being completely available and in tune with the fact she was in control of the class. However, there is no ambiguity when such a command comes from God, and his need for us to be still and know who he is.
In Psalm 46, we are reminded that the Lord controls the heavens and the earth, which includes nature and his chosen city. We are also reminded that he is our fortress and that, by virtue of his mercy, he is available and, therefore, present as our Emmanuel.
He accentuates this in proclaiming, “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” Psalm 46:10.
And yet, for the indescribable refuge he provides, we all too often forget his sovereignty. So, why do we forget? Perhaps it’s because we’re not still often enough and/or long enough to truly hear him and remain faithful to him.
It often seems like our lives are in perpetual motion between of our neverending commitments. We’re constantly racing to keep up with our obligations, and yet, sometimes it seems like the harder we try, the greater we become our own worst enemy.
We are guilty of this when we fail to be in God’s word and in prayer time. How, then, can we possibly hear him, particularly in the stormy moments of our life, if we’re not willing to be still?
The disciples experienced firsthand Jesus’ authority over a marvelous tempest when, at their urging, he calmed the wind and sea during a great windstorm.
“And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still.’ And the wind ceased, and there was great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” (Mark 4:39-40)
As Jesus rebuked the wind and the water, the storm bowed to his divine power far more faithfully than the disciples who continued to be filled with fear, even after Jesus calmed the wind and sea.
And we, today, are no better than the Twelve in the way in which our fears and insecurities exhibit the frailty of our faith and our inability to simply be still and know that he is God.
Fortunately, we have a heavenly father who loves us and promises to never leave us or forsake us. We are reminded that this promise was kept, and the price paid, as written in Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
Being still isn’t easy. Not when you’re in the second grade, or in any other phase of life for that matter. But when we take the time to strip everything else away and focus on him, that’s when we stand the best chance of hearing his still small voice and experiencing his unfailing love for us.
Brian Underwood is director of school development at Sierra Lutheran High School in Carson City.