This has been one of those weeks where I can’t seem to control my racing thoughts. Anxiety is a frequent visitor in my life, and today I am reminded of the verse in the Bible: “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10). Being still is one of the most ‘spiritual’ things we can do. It sounds simple, but I suspect it is the one of the most difficult and least practiced truths in the Bible.
Being still is more than just taking a break from activity. The words ‘be still’ in Psalm 46 mean to “cease striving”. Striving is that desperate drivenness within me that seeks control. It reveals itself in worrying, perfectionism and busyness – and any coping mechanism I use to maintain my illusion of control. Being still means being willing to make space for God. As long as I am still “in control”, I can’t sink into the infinite rest of God’s presence.
Awareness: Being Present to the Presence
“Be still and know that I am God.” But what does it mean to ‘know’ God? According to Strong’s concordance, ‘know’ can mean many things – among them: to acknowledge, to notice, discover, to be aware, and even the intimate experience of knowing someone (Adam ‘knew’ Eve in Genesis 4:1). Only when I cease my striving and enter a state of ‘stillness’ can I become aware and truly experience the reality of God. God is always present, but how often am I truly present? I can be in the room with you, but if my mind is thinking of something else, I am not truly ‘present’. Striving and anxiety take me out of the present and into the future: my ‘to do’ list, or the ‘what if’s’ that might happen. Being still means becoming aware of the presence of God. The greater my awareness of God, the smaller my problems become, and the deeper my experience of peace.
Where is the ‘Off Switch’?
A hectic schedule or a busy mind can send me into a state of anxiety and striving. Why is it so hard to be still? Being still is an act of surrendering control, which is why it feels scary. If I surrender my busyness, I have to face my feelings. If I surrender my worrying, I am confronted with my helplessness – the awareness of my lack of control. I’d rather do something than be still. But if I can be still long enough to face and embrace my feelings, they become the portal into the presence of God. What would life be like if I was more aware of God than my worries?
Diagnosis of Disconnection
The truth is, we are all disconnected. We can only connect with God and each other to the degree we are connected with ourselves. If I don’t even know what I’m feeling, how can I share it with you, or even begin to understand what you are feeling? Our inherent fear of feeling our feelings drives us to keep running or numbing to avoid them. But the downside is we also miss out on experiencing the presence of God, and authentic connection with each other. May we all become braver in being still in order to discover that underneath all things are the Everlasting Arms (Deuteronomy 33:27).