Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God.”
We are living in a challenging time right now. The COVID pandemic has affected all of us. If we are fortunate enough not to have been infected or have someone close to us get infected, we have an unaccustomed level of discomfort and anxiety, knowing that the threat is real and things may very well get worse before they get better.
We see how anxiety leads to compulsive behaviors, and we have them ourselves: checking our phones, social media, the news, the stock market, running to the grocery store. It is all pretty frantic, and usually all the activity doesn’t help us to feel better. On the contrary, we often feel worse for having looked at the news or seen all the empty shelves at the store.
I have been checking in with people more than usual. I have spent more time on the phone lately, and my phone battery has been getting drained much earlier in the day. On some days, my own “batteries” are drained earlier in the day as well.
And of course we are being directed to stay home – stay away from human contact and if contact is necessary, to keep our distance.
These are anxious times, but they provide us with an opportunity – an opportunity to recognize the difference between staying home and being still. And to learn the value of not only being physically still, but emotionally still as well.
We are social beings. We don’t do well with silence, and we are even worse at being alone. But in reading the verse from Psalm 46, we are reminded of what the Psalmist knew - that often the best way to find God is to be still, to put away the busyness of life. The Psalmist knew the value of not only being alone, but being in solitude with God.
Henri Nouwen, in his book entitled “The Way of the Heart – Connecting with God Through Prayer, Wisdom, and Silence” writes this:
“The very first thing we need to do is set apart a time and a place to be with God and him alone. The concrete shape of this discipline of solitude will be different for each person depending on individual character, ministerial task, and milieu. But a real discipline never remains vague or general. It is as concrete and specific as daily life itself. When I visited Mother Teresa in Calcutta a few years ago and asked her how to live out my vocation as a priest, she simply said: “Spend one hour a day in adoration of your Lord and never do anything you know is wrong, and you will be all right.”
Nouwen affirms that as we more directly and even intimately encounter God, then life becomes more real and fruitful.
For me, it works this way. Having always been a morning person, I take time in the early hours to be alone. No phone or media of any kind. I try not to jump into thinking about the day ahead. Usually I think about the world and the people I know and what is happening. I offer prayers for specific individuals and situations, but mostly I focus on God and on the assurance that God is greater than any hardship we face.
Different times or methods might work for you, but I encourage you to find time to be still and to seek to be alone with God.
Seeking alone time with God doesn’t cure all our worries. It may not permanently take away all our anxiety. But it can and will allow us to go through all that we are experiencing with the awareness of a loving and providential God who is with us every step of the way. Being still and alone with God can become a pathway to an underlying peace and contentment that is stronger than the anxiety we feel.
One of my favorite hymns, “Be Still, My Soul” says it beautifully:
Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake to guide the future as He has the past. Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake; all now mysterious shall be bright at last. Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know His voice, who ruled them while He dwelt below.
It bears reminding that this time shall pass. In the meantime we can use it to keep focused, keep connected, and keep praying.
Be still. Be still and know. Be still and know that He is God.