When I sat down with my coffee and journal the other morning, I struggled to concentrate. I worked longer than usual the day before. I was more tired than usual. And there was more swirling in my mind than usual. I was anticipating a very long day.
And “Psalm 46” came to mind.
It’s the “be still” psalm. It contains the phrase “be still and know that I am God.” Many of us say that phrase to ourselves. It’s supposed to be calming. It’s supposed to remind us that God is God.
And we are taking it out of context.
The writer isn’t talking to himself. He’s quoting God. People see chaos and warfare, battles and belligerence. And God says, “Be still.” It’s a powerful command from God that stills the strife. In this setting, it’s not words to ourselves, orienting our life around stillness.
Not that orienting our lives is impossible or undesirable. But the image in this picture is less like a quiet sanctuary and more like a boat in the middle of a storm. There are a dozen men in the boat who are awake and one who is asleep.The waves are smashing the sides. The wind is catching the mast as if it were a sail.
The waves are smashing the sides. The wind is catching the mast as if it were a sail. The storm is threatening to undo everything: The boat, the sanity of the passengers, the confidence of the sailors. And the sleeper, when awakened, says, “be still.” And the passengers said, “is this God?”
Some mornings, perhaps, we struggle a bit too much to make ourselves still. Some mornings, perhaps, we need to abandon all pretense and cry out to God for our very lives.
I have no guarantees of the results. It’s not a formula that, if uttered with enough passion, conjures God. But I know that God has a history of speaking order into chaos.