Early September, after a long hot summer, cool temps, high winds and severe thunderstorm warnings came in like a flood. Chicago is known as the windy city, actually named so for political reasons, but lives up to that description in more than one way. Sixty mile an hour winds whipped between the high rise buildings on Lakeshore Drive recently, as threads of hail and dangerous wave alerts notified my cell phone. The sky turned such an unusual and eerie shade almost as fast as the shift in the atmosphere.
Thankfully, a day of biking had come to an end just in time to enter my building and rest assured in safe shelter. However, when you live in a condo on the 24th floor with 50 year old windows, anxiety during such weather can set in as quickly as the storm. It was then I was reminded of the lighthouse, whose towering presence not only guides those lost in darkness, but also provides a safe haven in time of need. Scripture says that God is like a strong tower and all who enter in are kept safe and this has certainly been true in my life. Psalm 46 also came to mind that stormy evening.
Psalm 46 magnifies God as our refuge. It ends with “be still and know that I am God.” While this was what I chose to do in that literal stormy moment, how difficult can it be in the rush of not only the wind and waves, but the stormy moments of life? Even when all is well, life, and keeping up with it, can be challenging in 2013. Cancer is at an all-time high and stress related illness is big business, yet sickness is not the only thing lurking in the shadows, seeking whom it may devour.
Too often couples we thought would never see or say divorce part ways, kids go the exact opposite direction they have been raised, dysfunction runs rampant and while job and housing markets seem to be improving, they are a far cry from being what they once were. And then there’s Syria. When we ponder the atrocities of the latter, do we really have much to fret about? But anxiety will try to shove it's way in regardless. So how do we learn to rest and be still, entering the peace of God, no matter what storms swirl around us?
The answer to that may be slightly different for us all since we’re each wired differently. Taking a simple walk in nature, choosing not to multi-task while playing with the kids or calling someone to encourage them are practical steps for soul soothing. Too often we leave the easy and the obvious out. Naturally, more time in the word, worship and prayer certainly is the most obvious and necessary for Christians, but ironically enough, according to the footnote of my New Spirit Filled Life Bible, this familiar scripture, “be still and know I am God,” isn’t even referring to quiet, reverent prayer or worship. It appears God is speaking to a warring nation warning it to cease and desist. I won’t begin to get into a much bigger idea here, as this is about spiritual disciplines not political notions, but perhaps we can at least gain some insight regarding the things which war within and how to combat them.
Note the word, combat. We are told in the good book to fight the good fight of faith. Note the word fight. While the battle belongs to the Lord, He needs able soldiers to enlist and remain in active duty over the care of their own soul. If we abuse or neglect our body it will begin to fail us, likewise with an abused or neglected soul. Pursuing peace and being still takes determination, action and a tough fight some times.
Though we live under the new covenant of grace, the wrath of God came in ancient days when His own did not “enter His rest.” This was a sobering discovery for one who has been inclined to work several jobs at once since I was 17 years old, wear multiple ministry hats for 18 years or consistently find myself caught up in 10-12 hour work days as the norm. Thankfully, we're assured in scripture that God's anger was for a moment, but His favor lasts a lifetime. His mercies are new every morning and in His grace and mercy He has led me to take some big steps back and slow way down. Though challenging it has been to slow down, to everything there is a time and season. Honoring God's leading and discerning the seasons will bring not only relief but eventual blessing. Learning to incorporate a new pace can bring new peace.
Trusting God is also crucial to learning and maintaining stillness through the storm. God longs for us to wholeheartedly depend on Him to shelter us, protect us, provide for us, empower us and give us peace. Jesus left this planet saying “my peace I give to you, my peace I leave you.” God gave His only Son, so that this Son could give us peace. Who are we to rush around all the time, fretting or fearing, rather than receiving these gifts left for us? Receive Jesus and receive peace.
Stillness through the storm isn’t just good Godly practice for life’s bigger challenges, but may well be our gift back to God. It is faith in action and it speaks volumes to those watching, including a God who see’s everything. Displaying our confidence and trust in Psalm 46:1, proving we truly believe God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble, takes purposeful determination but is a blessing to us and all who see how we handle a tsunami that sweeps in unexpectedly.
One final but simple suggestion for reaching stillness pertains those dreaded devices in our life. If technology takes a break while we let God take center stage, we’ll be better positioned to see the lighthouse through the wind and rain as well as the light at the end of the tunnel. An awesome tune by Hillsong entitled “Still” quotes much of Psalm 46. For a great devotional time, while your Facebook, twitter, email, android, I-phone gets its own rest, mediate on that Psalm while playing this song.
“When the oceans rise and thunders roar, I will soar with you above the storm. Father you are King over the flood. I will be still and know you are God.”
If we're to make it from the page to being living epistles, we must be still and know.