What Does It Mean To Be Still Before Our God?

What Does It Mean To Be Still Before Our God? July 23, 2023

Be still before the Lord - woman praying.
Be still before the Lord.
Photo by Arina Krasnikova: https://www.pexels.com/photo/close-up-shot-of-a-woman-praying-5418308/

I’m not so great at being still. Don’t get me wrong – I’m pretty great at sitting on my couch and watching “Indian Matchmaking” or “Ted Lasso.” But I’m not great at slowing down my mind and being still. 

It seems counterintuitive to me – dangerous even. When so much of the world is hurtling to destruction. When horrible people seem to have a gross amount of power. When vulnerable people become more oppressed and marginalized. Being still feels selfish or lazy or irresponsible.

Yet a still, small voice whispers in my soul – Be still and know that I am God. Be still before the Lord. 

And perhaps it’s just the echo of a lifetime of Sunday School lessons ringing in my mind. But maybe, just maybe, it really is the Spirit of God reminding me, just like God reminded the Old Testament Israelites. 

As their world seemed to be spiraling out of control, the Psalmist sang the assurance, “God is our refuge and strength . . . the Lord Almighty is with us . . . Come and see what the Lord has done . . . He says, ‘Be still and know that I am God.’” 

When corruption controlled and wicked rulers reigned, the Psalmist sang, “Do not fret because of those who are evil . . . Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.”

Be still. Take time to rest and be mindful of God’s character and power. Be still. 

Be still? How can we not fret when evil people do heinous things? God, through the Psalmist, assures us nothing lasts forever. The grass withers. Plants die. Wars eventually cease. Evil-doers won’t live forever.

So what are we to do? What does it mean to be still and know that God is God? What does it mean to be still before the Lord? How can we be still and not be lazy or apathetic or irresponsible? 

Let’s look at Psalm 37.

  • Trust in the Lord and do good. Resting in God doesn’t mean inactivity. It doesn’t mean I couch-potato my way through life, believing that while I sit on my tush, God will handle it all. No. But I can do good while trusting God and resting in God’s ability to control the outcome. I can do good without a sense of fretfulness. Without that buzzing beehive of anxiety in my chest and the jittery reverberations jarring my body. Doing good while trusting God is an act of soulful stillness in the midst of bodily activity. 
  • Take delight in the Lord. I can be aware of the evil in the world and experience delight. Poet and professor, Ross Gay, is a modern-day leader in looking for delights. In this interview with NPR, Gay speaks about scrounging for delights, cultivating the habit of focusing on the delightful around us. In writing “The Book of Delights,” Gay realized that seeking out joy and the things that connect us as humans helps us love each other better. Noticing joys and blessings buoys us to be more effective in doing something about the suffering and corruption surrounding us. In other words, taking delight fills us with light so that we can better shine in the darkness.
  • Refrain from anger and turn away from wrath. Young’s literal translation says to “forsake fury.” The word for anger here in Hebrew brings up images of nostril-flaring, angry breathing. Obviously, a righteous anger that spurs us to do good is one thing. This, though, is the kind of hot rage that burns inside us and leads us to repay evil with evil. Resting in God prevents us from becoming consumed by fury at the atrocities in the world. I don’t know about you, but when I experience fire-breathing, nostril-flaring, white-hot rage, I am not really propelled toward productive goodness. I usually leave a path of destruction in my wake. Being still before God soothes that destructive anger and redirects me toward the sort of action that is helpful. 
  • Hope in the Lord. When I am still before God, I am reminded that God is God. And I am not. My hope isn’t in myself and my capabilities. My hope isn’t in human leaders or their capacity to solve problems. My hope is in God and God’s ability to be God. That perspective helps so much to quiet my mind and soul.

None of this means that we tra-la-la our way through life, burying our heads in the sand. No, we can’t carry each other’s burdens if we foster toxic positivity and turn a blind eye to evil. 

Being still doesn’t mean we think only of ourselves and our blessings while others suffer under the oppression of malicious people of power. That isn’t loving or treating others as we want to be treated. If we have plenty, and we don’t help others, then we don’t know how to love. 

It doesn’t mean we isolate ourselves in our faith community and await the return of Jesus. If our response to bad news is to shake our heads, recite, “Come, Lord Jesus,” and ignore the real trouble in the world, that’s problematic. No, we can be still before God, hope in the Lord, and live holy and godly lives while growing in grace. 

Christianity has a long history of mindful, contemplative meditation and prayer. Of being still and knowing God is God. Way back in the 6th century, Pope Gregory the Great considered this idea of resting in God. According to Dr. Jana Rentzel, “In this resting, he [Pope Gregory] said, we are not so much seeking God outside of ourselves, as we are experiencing what is already there, within us.” This stillness before God brings us back to the truth that we are one in God’s Spirit, abiding in God and God in us. 

Being still before the Lord quiets our souls and calms our minds. It gives us pause to remember God’s character and love. Being still provides a moment to contemplate the power and mystery of God. Then we can realign ourselves, centering God’s power and love rather than the chaos swirling around us or within us. 

And so I am reminded that being still is not selfish or lazy or irresponsible. It is the best way to fill us with enough light to navigate whatever darkness we encounter. 


"Those who want to post The Ten Commandments must first determine what these ten are. ..."

What does it mean to keep ..."
"To those Christians who want the 10 Commandments displayed in schools (or school prayer or ..."

What does it mean to keep ..."
"From what I see on the news, God is not allowed in the schools at ..."

What does it mean to keep ..."
"Thank you and God bless you! I keep hoping and praying that all this drummed ..."

An Open Letter From A Public ..."

Browse Our Archives