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.”