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A Time to be Quiet

Was ready for the return flight from Tel Aviv to the US, even though any trip to the land of the Bible seems like an undeserved chance of a lifetime for me.

Once home, was also more tired than usual. After a week of fighting a “travelers’ bug” and working under a hot, June, Israeli sun, I found that all I wanted to do was to sleep– around the clock–for a couple of days.

Not the kind of return I had planned. Had found it so easy to sleep on the plane coming back was hoping to hit the ground running, get some things done around the house, spend time with family, and get a jump on the the work waiting for me back at the office. But all I could do was to “crash”, and occasionally wrestle with the thought that “there is a time to be still.”

Now that I’m feeling more rested, am still intrigued, once again, with those passages in the Bible that indicate that, just as there is time to work, speak, and make noise, so there is a time to be quiet.

Normally, we use a moment of silence to honor someone who has left us. We are quiet when we don’t want to be noticed, when we don’t want to wake or distract someone else, or when we want to listen and learn. But the songwriter of Israel gives us another reason. He quotes the One who says, “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10).

In an earlier post I mentioned that I was surprised to discover that the word for “be still” in this text could more literally be translated, “be relaxed”, or “stop striving,” or “let go of your efforts.” An implication of this text seems to be to stop doing whatever we are doing that is keeping us seeing who God is.

It seems to me, then, that one time to “let go, stop, and be still” might be…

When we are trying to hold our world together

The thought behind “Be still” seems as appropriate for us when we are confidently making our plans and proudly reflecting on our own work… as when we are being overwhelmed by anxiety

When it seems that our world is out of control

So, the inspired songwriter says, “God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though its waters roar and be troubled, Though the mountains shake with its swelling. (Psa 46:1-3).

When we need to remember who God is

What is most important is that we calm ourselves– not in the presence of the god we have made in our own image– but rather in the presence of the God who has made us in his likeness. So the songwriter declares, “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 refuge” (46:10-11).

With memories of a real land, people, and history, so fresh in my mind, this reference to “The God of Jacob (Israel) seems so important. Together they tell the story of the God who alone deserves our trust as, in relaxed silence, we turn our thoughts back to him.

But how do we do this? How quiet and still do we have to be? For how long?

I’ve read of persons who tried to do this for a few seconds every minute, and for a few minutes every hour, in an effort to practice an awareness of the presence of God. But God doesn’t tell us how to do it. Certainly he doesn’t mean for us to stop working, or talking or fulfilling our normal obligations.

For now, this may be a moment to realize that, if it is our desire to stop trying to hold our world together — he, himself, can show us how to quiet ourselves with the assurance that he is “our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

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20 Responses to “A Time to be Quiet”

  1. Gale L. Jarvis says:

    Good Morning everyone, Mart, Being still is something the Holy Spirit has helped me to develop, i believe the mind of a person never stops thinking about something, it is only when i ask the Holy Spirit to help me to wait, and begin desiring to seek, and get my mind thinking on Eternal things that my mind begins to follow, and i am able to be still, and really see God as God, the one from whom all( ALL )
    blessings flow.
    Trusting God enough to lay my life before Him as a living sacrifice can only come through being still and and asking the Holy Spirit for guidance as to how this can be accomplished, and the Holy Spirit has given me what ever i have needed.
    I believe every thing comes from God, even the desire to do what ever He desires for me to do through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
    Being still, or stopping the mind, i believe is an impossibility without the help of the Holy Spirit, but because i know this is God’s desire, if I will ask it will be done.

  2. Ted M. Gossard says:

    Thanks, Mart for the good reflections here. Reminds me of how I’m trying to slow down in what I’m trying to do in my Bible reading and prayer- quiet times, and work on doing it more as an apprentice of our Lord and in fellowship with God’s people.

    Your words here are helpful in complementing my pondering on this. We should rest and work by faith as those who are in God’s presence. For me this means a kind of ceasing of my striving as in slowing down. (as I posted today on my own blog)

  3. hal.fshr says:

    Mart, your comments remind of the time Jesus told his disciples to rest. “Then the apostles gathered to Jesus and told Him all things, both what they had done and what they had taught. 31 And He said to them, “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat. 32 So they departed to a deserted place in the boat by themselves (Mark 6:30-32). Certainly, He provided leadership on giving time for people to recup their strength.

  4. drkennyg says:

    Ah yes the ol’ jet-lag syndrome. We should all be aware that airplane cabin pressures are lowered in flight at altitude to about the equivalent of 5-8000 ft above sea level “to keep the passengers calm” thus the oxygen available for breathing is lowered and our blood lowers its oxygen level. Not down to dangerous levels for normal folk even when asleep (which results in even less oxygen in the body but again still safe for normal folks). I on the other hand have emphysema and as such require supplemental oxygen at nearly all levels of activity and while sleeping even at sea level. The point is that our thinking ability is affected by the lower oxygen levels.
    OK then I greatly enjoyed your trip reports from Israel and my favorite photo was from the north shore over the Sea of Galilee at Capernaum. Psalm 46 is on my top 10 list of Psalms. The times to be still that you mentioned are great ideas and I loved what tish reported above. Great blog and thanks.

  5. pegramsdell says:

    I’m thinking that we all need time alone with God. Jesus often went off alone and couldn’t be found. Then He would show up and do miracles after miracles. He got filled up with The Holy Spirit so He could minister. He spent time with His Father and learned from Him and received strength from Him. We need to be refreshed regularly so we won’t get weak. Also to keep a strong and healthy relationship with Our Lord.

  6. poohpity says:

    Amen Mart,

    I work with the developmentally disabled and during class this Sunday I was reading the book of Daniel and asked why do we worship God? Their reply was because we have to. On the surface this seems to be the pat answer but on careful examination I responded to them we do not have to, it is a choice, one day I hope you want to. The reason I mention this is because “Be still and know I am God” reassures us that when we do things in our own efforts we can cause others not out of their love for God but because we told them to. I do not know if I am getting my point across.

    I believe that our biggest or greatest god in our lives is us and our control. Knowing that God is God comes from reading how in the past He has used HIS means to accomplish His goals by extraordinary ways so we can not take any credit because it is all to His Glory. So being still to me is relinquishing control and allowing GOD to be GOD. Remember that even our faith is a gift from God.

    I also believe that continuing to strive for the things of this world and not taking time to smell the roses that one day there may be no more roses.

  7. Hephzibah610 says:

    This past week we experienced power outages and flooding in our house. It was a time to learn more experientially that “God is our refuge, our strength and a very present help in trouble.” As I sifted and sorted through the piles of wet, items, I sensed the nearness of the Holy Spirit. The whole thing at first was so overwhelming and then I began to ask the LORD, “what do I do now, LORD?” and He would show me the next small step to take. I was thinking “this is how it is always supposed to be…depending on the LORD step by step.” There was a peace (that passes understanding)…not to say that I didn’t ever struggle to fight off fear. But to keep coming back to the rest of focusing on the LORD and knowing that He would guide me. He was my comfort…my present help…

    I think each time we go through trouble or challenges, and we experience a part of His character/ His Name…(ie: God of Comfort). It becomes a part of us…so that next time we have more faith in His faithfulness. So whether at work or relaxing, we can rest. He is our rest.

  8. lilu1314h says:

    Thank you for the reminder of the verse (Psalm 46:10) Be still & know that I am God.

    Recently I have tried to follow what God has planned for me (but what I’ve always reluctant to, coz I know it will incur a lot of pain & hurt) However I find myself submitting to His will not because I wanted to but because I’ve been tiring to resist His will. The feeling of helplessness drives me to give in to His will. I ended up with submitting to God in a painful way.

    The above verse reminded me that God is in control & as He has shown me earlier in Rom 8:28 and we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.

    Finally I hope He can teach me to learn to accept His will joyfully without any remorse.

  9. Jeph says:

    Just in the same way one can hold a conversation with a single person in a crowded airport, full auditorium or restaurant one can “know” God through any of this worlds distractions. Often it is during or shortly after a major event when the LORD shows himself. Surely Elijah must have been overwhelmed – 1 Kings 19:10-12
    with great strong wind, an earthquake and fire all around him.
    God will show up in the still times as well. The temple
    must certainly have been quiet while and Samuel was called by the LORD as he slept -1 Samuel 3:2-11.
    We can “know” our Great and Holy God at anytime and he can and will show up just when he chooses. When we are still, quiet, loud, sleepy or awake. He is always ready, when you are…or not.

  10. msbarb says:

    I was having a hard time with my grandchild and just had to give up. I then logged in to rbc.org and up came your comments. When I read “be still and know that I am God” and your comments on the meaning of ‘be still’ meaning to let go and also relax. That was exactly what I needed to hear.

  11. daisymarygoldr says:

    A whole lot of work + the traveler’s bug:( + jet lag must have definitely taken its toll, unless one claims to be invincible. Just travelled this weekend from the west to the east coast and slept a whole day thru and now I’m wide awake:)), thanks drkennyg for that info on the effect of Oxygen! Even God rested from His work…glad you were able to get some rest and I’m positively sure that things will get from better to best!

    “But how do we do this? How quiet and still do we have to be? For how long?”

    As long as it takes to recuperate…till we feel refreshed, renewed and revived…till He stills the storms to calm…till everything returns to normalcy. It may sound crazy and a waste of precious time but apart from waiting, there is no other option…at least that is what I have learnt experientially. It is only when we learn to ‘Be still’ i.e. to stop worrying or panicking or being anxious, our focus shifts from our circumstances to the ONE who is in control. Then we can actually recognize and acknowledge God’s sovereignty in our lives and yes, we do ask God to “Teach me, and I will be quiet…”(Job 6:24)!

  12. wpleasant says:

    Thank you for sharing your “be still” moments. There are so many ministries that project a works theology that I find no different frankly than the whirlwind “busyness” lifetsyle in the secular world, to the point of perpetual exhaustion. There are so many examples by other bloggers on this topic that appropriately reject the notion that if we are not constantly exerting ourselves to the point of collapse then we are not being a good Christian. As I write this blog there is a heavy rain and wind storm outside my house. And yet there is something comforting to know that God has allowed me the time and opportunity to read your blog and that of the others in the quietness and peace amidst the storm. That is a taste of heaven, and to know that eternal rest is ours in Christ is something for which we we should all praise God. Today my wife and I celebrated our 29th wedding anniversary. We took the time to review a video of still photos our wedding and reception and reflect on much of what God has graced us. It was a quiet but precious time.

  13. sjd says:

    I was reading in the Bible tonight how Judas was paid thirty pieces of silver for turning Jesus over to the authorities. Thirty pieces of silver was the price to be paid for the owner of a slave that was killed by an ox. Jesus was “bought” for the mere price of a servant. Yet Jesus did say that He came to serve rather than to be served. Jesus came to give His life as a ransom for many. Then I read in Colossians 1:15-17

    15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
    16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.
    17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

    That is enough to cause me to be still and be in awe of who He is and what He has done.

  14. poohpity says:

    Hephzibah610 I hope all your family and you have made it through the flooding with no injuries. You will be in my prayers.

  15. chfranke says:

    After a busy four weeks of travel and busyness myself, I have a time this morning to be quiet and appreciate you Mart and all the people who contribute here. It’s like coming home. What a wonderful way, Mart, you have of including us in your travels and the thoughts your experiences evoke. It is a treasure to behold. Thank you. I am amazed that you can travel so blissfully (apparently) through a land that is filled with so much turmoil and strife. It seems the awe of being where Jesus walked must minimize that undercurrent you must have felt at some level. Your reports do not include any sort of uneasiness. Praise God for the peace he can bring in the middle of tension, and the middle of storms and floods.

  16. Hephzibah610 says:

    Thanks poohpity…i appreciate your prayers…

  17. Becky M says:

    I struggle with this message in my head all the time. And when I see my world around me falling apart and I start blaming myself for it I just have to stop and take a breath knowing that I am really the blame for my tragic circumstances, for I have not leaned upon God nor taken the time to approach Him during my steps. I need to slow down my activity,and my thoughts and go To God in prayer to help me do even that! But, it does help me rethink as a little voice in the back of my head reminds me to “wait” before starting again. To look in Psalms and read about grace to help me “wait” upon the Lord. “My grace is sufficient for you” is one scripture that comes to mind.

  18. ezekiel says:

    Learning from my mistakes; I spoke out of frustration to my boss about an injustice the other day, now realizing that I should not trust the worldly authorities to make things right. If I was strong enough I would have kept quiet and struggled with the injustice and given it to God entrusting him to deal with the circumstances. I was conforming to the pattern of this world and struggling with the world system for answers that would not suffice as the struggle is not against flesh and blood, but in the heavenly realms, where God needs to transform our minds and hearts into his beings that glorify Him.

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