1 God is our refuge and strength,an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
5 God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.
6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
7 The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
8 Come and see the works of the LORD, the desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear,
he burns the shields with fire.
10 "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth."
11 The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
God speaks the powerful phrase, “Be still and know that I am God,” after a dramatic depiction of noise and commotion: roaring waters, quaking mountains, nations in an uproar. Then God stops all warring and destructive activities, and much more than that. He tells us to ‘Be still’, a universal instruction that effects every part of our being. It means to stop all physical activities and come to a resting point. We allow the body to be still, unmoving, quiet. This has been an important procedure for all religions: to be still, calm of mind and body, then meditate or pray.
Physical stillness can also mean releasing our efforts and stresses around the activities that engage us. For me, this comes by surrendering and giving to God my actions and duties. If we find ourselves not wanting to do what we are doing, perhaps we have not surrendered them, and are restless in our activities. We are not still; we are warring with effort and stress.
We can become consumed by fret and worry. Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.” When we stop worrying and concerning ourselves with the body and outcomes, we allow a mental stillness to fill us. We stop warring and embrace peace. Trust God; trust God’s plans for us.
When we focus our full attention on the task at hand at this moment, and give it our total energy, we are engaging in surrendered action, empowered action, as Eckhart Tolle calls it. When we approach a task through this stillness, we move beyond labels of ‘good’ or ‘bad’. It is what is to be done right now, and we move though it without effort or trying, but with a sense of peace.
We are at constant war with ourselves mentally. The ego is waging a battle for our attention, telling us that we need more: more beauty, more personality, more intelligence, more money, more security, more toilet paper, more hand sanitizer….
Some people’s minds are in a constant state of activity, with a verbose, negative, and never-ending dialogue. At times our thoughts trap us into specific ways of looking at people and situations. We are imprisoned by our habitual viewpoints, unable to escape into the stillness beyond our thoughts.
So, “Be still” can mean to be still mentally as well as physically – to find a quiet place and release all our thoughts and tune into the Mind of God. This could be by getting into nature and feeling the beauty, power, and peace of Creation. It could mean sitting and being still, letting all our worries and thoughts of the day melt into the peace of God. Let go, let go, let go. Breathe.
To ‘be still’ can include becoming spiritually still – to let go of the ego and become absorbed in the consciousness of the One Power and Presence, the Infinite Consciousness.
It might mean to become involved in the service to others. I heard a story about Mother Theresa: she was attending to a leper in India when man walked by and said, “I wouldn’t do that for a million dollars.” She replied, “Neither would I. I do it for the love of the Christ.”
In Mark 4:39, Christ commanded the tumultuous sea to calm: He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm.
Obviously, there are many levels of feeling peace, and many more ways to lose the sense of peace. Almost in every instance, however, we have a mechanism for establishing peace. It is what Christ did when he was out on the tumultuous sea. He commanded: “Peace, be still.” To quell every tempestuous thought that comes up, we can tell ourselves: “Peace, be still.” These chaotic thoughts often arise as a result of our physical, earthly environment. Regardless of the origin, we can command our mind to stillness and embrace the peace that follows.
This is the first and greatest lesson to learn from peace: we release it from within; we choose to express it. It is not found ‘out there’. It is not gained from finding a situation or circumstance that is free from disturbance. It is found by being free from disturbance. Gandhi said, “There is no ‘way to peace’, there is only ‘peace’.
This is the peace that the Christ came to share. That is why he said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives.” The peace of Christ comes from within; it is already there; it has already been given to us. It is an inner peace, an inner calm and serenity.
Our challenge is to know it and express it in times of conflict. A disturbance in our outer circumstances does not have to be reflected in our inner world. When those outer disturbances try to invade our inner calm, we manage them by commanding that they be still. Nothing can disturb the calm peace of our soul … without our granting the permission first.
We can detach our emotions, rise above a situation, and not give our mental energy to discord. Gandhi also said, “Whenever you meet an opponent, conquer him with love.”
Our opponents are not always people enticing us to war; sometimes they are simply part of our daily activities. Especially in these times with Covid-19; we can feel helpless, harried, and fearful. Last night we experienced an earthquake. It was large to me. I called my Mom to make sure she was ok, and Brian and Lisa, because I knew they were close to the epicenter. When I told Brian that it was the largest I have lived through, he said, “Well then, you haven’t lived much.” What seemed large to me was trivial to him.
We can become consumed by fret and worry. Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.” When we stop worrying and concerning ourselves with the body and outcomes of our earthly experiences, we allow a mental, physical, and spiritual stillness to fill us. We stop warring and embrace peace.
There is even the point where we release our captivation with and our enslavement to our thoughts and move beyond them to the stillness of pure awareness, who we truly are.
We hear a description of where this place is in Kings 19:11-12, when Elijah was speaking with God. And He said, Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord. And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire [a sound of gentle stillness and] a still, small voice.
Our fears can drive us off our center of peace, and we will miss that still small voice. One solution is to move into prayer; find a quiet time and seek relief in Spirit’s presence. “Peace, be still.” When we release our stresses and anxieties we are filled with serenity; as we release, we feel peace. As we let go of the conflict, we are embraced by the calm of Christ. When we liberate our attachments to how things should be -- our expectations – then we enjoy true peace, joy, and love of Spirit.
The great spiritual teacher, Lao Tzu, taught this: "No thought, no action, no movement, total stillness: only thus can one manifest the true nature and law of things from within and unconsciously, and at last become one with heaven and earth."
So, it is my prayer that we embrace the stillness, and know God. At the very depths of our soul, who we are is the quiet, peace, and stillness of God’s Love and Light. “Be still, and know that I am God,” we are instructed. And when we become still, we not only know God, but we know that we are Peace, we are Love, we are Joy, and we are a beloved Child of God.