It’s a hard word in some ways, isn’t it? While we all NEED stillness, many of us have a hard time practicing it.
In case you haven’t noticed, other people are perfectly content for us NOT to practice this discipline. In fact, keeping us constantly plugged in and turned on is big business. There are both individuals and entire industries happy to fill our schedules with events, activities, shows, games, entertainment, notifications, and countless other empty to-do’s.
Not only that, but in our tech driven, high paced lifestyle, even when our bodies are still, our minds can be racing 90 miles an hour. We are so accustomed to stuffing every single second of our lives full with noise and activity, it’s harder than ever to quiet down, say no to distractions, and just be still in mind and body.
David wrote in Psalm 131:
“Surely I have stilled and quieted my soul;
like a weaned child with his mother,
like a weaned child is my soul within me.”
While we don’t know what prompted David to write this short prose, something in his life clearly stirred him up. Perhaps he felt restless, carrying around a sense of anxiety or angst. Or maybe his to-do list was overwhelming. Whatever the case, he recognized his need to internally quiet and still his soul. He took intentional steps to do so, and we can too.
What does it mean to be still?
Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.”
The word “still” in this verse is a verb. Funny enough, stillness is something we do. It is a practice, something that takes effort and intentionality on our part.
The Hebrew term for “still” is raphah and literally means to sink down, relax, let drop, or be disheartened.
“Stillness is the activity of letting go, relaxing, letting down your guard, relinquishing control, and sitting with all the shortcomings and undone things in your life.” Arabah Joy
No wonder we don’t like it so much, eh?
We like to be in control, to figure things out, to know where we’re headed, but stillness is letting it all go. In short, you could say stillness is doing NOTHING.
It’s letting go of the striving, the controlling, the worry and anxiety, the disappointments and failures, the hurts and un-forgiveness, the injustices, the fears.
Pssstt… did you realize there’s a verb for doing nothing? Yes, my friend, there is such a thing and it’s called being “still.” And it’s extremely important to practice!
Why being still is important
Psalm 46:10 implies that being still is necessary in order for us to know God.
It makes sense when you think about it.
God is sovereign. God is all-powerful. God is all-wise. God doesn’t fit in our man-made box. Yet God is good. Stillness reminds us that God is God and we are not. Only when we are still can we grasp the God-ness of God.
Without stillness, we attempt to be our own gods.
5 Ways Stillness Can Help You Know God
1. It reminds of God’s sovereignty. Busyness is deceptive. We can feel important, powerful, and in control when we are busy. Activity is often an attempt at control. It gives us a sense of safety and security. Busyness can drown out the reality of our pain and limitations.
By stilling ourselves, ceasing from work and activity, and spending time alone with God, we are reminded that God alone is Sovereign… and that we are not. He alone tells the waves where to stop and the earth how to spin. Stillness reminds us that we, in fact, cannot control our destiny. All our frenetic movement doesn’t cause the grass to grow, the flower to bloom, or help the birds find food. Yes, we can make wise choices but ultimately, God is sovereign. Without Him, we labor in vain.
2. It reminds us that God can’t be controlled…but He can be known. Let’s face it. God’s sovereignty can be scary. What if He doesn’t heal me or my loved one? What if He doesn’t come through for me in the way I think is best? What if He doesn’t love me? What if He isn’t really for me or have my best interests at heart? What if it’s His will to strip me of everything?
Stillness forces us to face these questions and fears and honestly take a look at the nature of God. It forces us to grapple with hard realities and reject quick, easy solutions. It is only in spiritual stillness that we truly and deeply ask, “Who are You, God?” Only in stillness can we ask hard things and in the waiting, grow in understanding. Stillness allows us to be led down the path of intimacy with God.
3. It’s a chance to focus on God’s goodness. Quietness and stillness give God the chance to remind us of His goodness. When we are still, and can overcome distractions, we begin to NOTICE… how He feeds the birds each morning, how He cares for the cattle on a thousand hills, how He watches over His creation and how living things thrill to His touch. We notice the beauty of the blossoms, the color of the sunset, and we know He is good. In the stillness He will reassure your heart that the one whose eye is on the sparrow cares much more deeply for you.
4. It allows us to experience God’s nearness. Sometimes you’ll hear someone say God “woke them up” or “got their attention.” Most often, they will refer back to a major event or crisis of some sort in their life that God spoke through. But God often speaks in hushes (remember Elijah in I Kings 19?) We don’t necessarily need big moves of God in order to hear Him. If we are still and quiet, we can often hear His voice. And sometimes, it’s ONLY in the still and quiet that we hear His voice and know His presence. If you are waiting on God to speak to you, consider perhaps He is waiting on you to get still and quiet enough to hear Him.
5. It gives the opportunity to exchange weakness for strength. Isaiah 30:15 says, “In quietness and trust is your strength.” Quieting ourselves before God represents humility, trust, and submission. As we humble ourselves and embrace His sovereignty and God-ness, as we look to Him as our hope, God is drawn to help our weakness. Faith pleases Him. He can’t help but be attracted like a magnet to true humility and trust. It’s the way He has designed for us to tap into His strength. There is a great exchange of strength that happens in the stillness. These Scripture promises are especially appropriate for these times.
Okay, so let’s talk practicalities. How do we actually practice this discipline of stillness?