“Be still”. When was the last time you were really still, still before God. Not just in resting mode as you braced yourself for the next activity, but still with no agenda, listening to God and enjoying his beauty.
Stillness, the Avenue for Awe
I like to walk in the woods and breathe in all the vastness and calm of living things bigger and older than I. As I sit and look over the water, I think about how long the lake has been there, ever the same lake, but made of different molecules. Or the tall, ever present woods, with trees so ancient, but still sprouting, growing, dying and decaying continually. And I think of God who designed all of it. A beautiful Creator, drawing from his own timeless beauty all the beauty of the earth.
And I feel small.
And it’s good to feel small.
Because the timeless, great Creator sees me in my smallness.
And I see him in a portion of his greatness.
We see each other.
And this is one little moment of awe, in a world full of the awesome wonder of creation.
But if we’re not still, we miss the moments of awe.
The Fear of the Lord
Proverbs 1:7 says, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.”
I think of the fear of the Lord a little like adventure-fear. It’s thrill in the dangerous space where you’re not in control, but the possibilities are expansive.
The fear of the Lord is the product of appropriate stillness and awe. The proper sense of who God is and who we are and the vast difference between us. The rightful attitude of humility before a Being worthy of all our obedience and respect. A jaw-dropping reverence and maybe a little shaking in the knees.
And if we know Jesus at all, we recognize once again the undeserved gift of the cross. God made human to know our humanness, to dissolve the shame of our sin, and to bring the humble into freedom, peace and righteousness. This comes back to us in our reverent stillness.
Something Bigger than Us
When we are rushing, when we are busy, we tend to forget the power beyond the worlds we ourselves have created and control. In our fear and distrust, our selfishness and pride, we begin to imagine ourselves as almighty gods.
Until we sit beside the ocean.
Or run smack into death.
Or survive a natural disaster.
And our perspective changes as our focus broadens and expands.
We like to think we’re God, but we’re not. And we argue with him when he doesn’t do the things we would if we were him.
But he knows how to make stars.
And human bodies that constantly heal without any thanks from us.
And we need those moments of stillness to help us remember.
Hurry as Distraction
I recently came across this quote from a study on Christian distraction. The author, Michael Zigarelli, made an interesting observation about the endless cycle that busyness creates in our lives.
My data set does not include sufficient information to pinpoint why Christians are so busy, so hurried, and so distracted from their relationship with God. But if you’ll allow me to conjecture, I think the problem may be described as a vicious cycle, prompted by cultural conformity. In particular, it may be the case that (1) Christians are assimilating to a culture of busyness, hurry and overload, which leads to (2) God becoming more marginalized in Christians’ lives, which leads to (3) a deteriorating relationship with God, which leads to (4) Christians becoming even more vulnerable to adopting secular assumptions about how to live, which leads to (5) more conformity to a culture of busyness, hurry and overload. And then the cycle begins again.1
Which makes the command to be still before God make so much sense. Hurry can become distracting sabotage. Worship in the form of listening stillness provides an avenue for awe to enter once again. Once again we can remember how great is God, how miniscule we are, and how blessed we are to be treasured by him.
A Word for the New Year
And that is a good posture for the New Year.
My word for the year is “remember”. I hope to remember to wait, listen and be still. I hope to remember who God is and what he is able to do in the life of little me.
Psalm 103 reminds me to “never forget” the Lord’s benefits. Instead, I plan to “remember.” “Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me.” Psalm 103:2(NLT). The psalm goes on to list many of these benefits that come from the Lord – forgiveness, healing, life, love, compassion, justice, righteousness, etc.
Stillness helps me remember that my God is bigger than any little problem that I face. There’s nothing overwhelming me in my hurried life that he does not diminish by his glory, power and grace.
I’d love to hear your 2023 word of the year below if you have one. And I hope that you will be encouraged to ditch the rat race and to make time and space to honor God with a quiet, reverent heart.
- Michael Zigarelli, “Distracted from God: A Five-Year, Worldwide Study“, Christianity 9 to 5.