It’s hard to escape the feeling that everything is crumbling down around us. Terror. Race. Politics. Bad people are doing bad things, and good people are making unwise decisions.
And if we’re honest, we’d admit that their own lives are doing a little of the same kind of crumbling.
Our jobs shift.
Our churches and businesses are consumed with internal and external conflict.
Our bodies fail us.
Our loved ones pass.
Our jobs seem to suck the life out of us.
And it’s into that crumbling-around-us-and-in-us part of our hearts that I write. More importantly, it’s into that same crumbling that David writes. A friend reacquainted me with this beautiful portion of the Psalms recently, and I wonder if God is speaking directly to us today?
Actually, I don’t wonder at all.
God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
This entire poem/song is both true and poetic, and that’s because David is an artist himself. And make no mistake – these lines of true poetry are absolutely pregnant with possibilities for our lives. He begins with…
God is our refuge and strength – an ever-present help in trouble.
Because of God’s power and might, and because of His ability to always give us the help He knows we need (many times coming through other people, I would argue), the next line he writes is completely true…
Therefore we will not fear…
How amazing would it be to look at our world and our own circumstances, and to actually not fear? That would be worth the effort, I think. I am fearful of any confrontation with a friend or with someone in authority over me. I’ve always struggled with being “that guy” who brings the awkward and the uncomfortable into the room. I’d rather fake peace and not say anything. What are you most fearful of?
WHAT ARE YOU MOST FEARFUL OF? BE SPECIFIC.
After David’s bold statement about not fearing, he describes an even-worse scenario of a world that’s crumbling down around us – a world image that’s more catastrophic than anything that CNN or MSNBC or FOXNEWS would lead with.
Can you possibly imagine a more disastrous picture than this artist is painting? He’s envisioning something that’s the worst of the worst of the worst. And yet in the middle of a world that’s crumbling down around us, and even in a world that’s crumbling down within us, we can do one thing. It’s the only thing that really reminds us of where our peace lies, and where the Source of true life connects with His formation in our hearts. It’s the heart and soul of the reason we don’t have to give way to fear.
The antidote to fear is our awareness of the presence of God. In other words, our ability to be still – to quit striving, and to just rest – comes because we know that God is truly God. We do not have to fear our world or our circumstances because God is God, and He hasn’t left the planet, and He hasn’t left our hearts either. And that, friends, provides a beautiful place for our anxious hearts to rest. It’s like God is reminding us that the outcomes in our lives have never been ours to carry because they’re too heavy for us, not to mention impossible.
And if you hear Scripture or me telling you to quit working or grinding or trying hard, I’d tell you that this voice is the Scriptural exception, not the rule. We should absolutely work hard, and the New Testament admonishes us to do that. We just need to be careful not to find our identity there.
More often than not, Scripture seems to proclaim an invitation from God Himself to live a life completely birthed from the truth that the hardest work we’ll ever do is to quit striving, and to simply be still. John calls it abiding, and for good reason.
THE HARDEST WORK WE’LL EVER DO IS TO QUIT STRIVING, AND SIMPLY BE STILL.
We are invited by God to be still.
You are invited by God to be still.
Want to read those words slowly again?
You are invited to just…
But there’s a rub here – something that doesn’t quite feel quite right to us. It’s a feeling of both peace and challenge at the same time, and you probably feel both as you’re reading. On the one hand, we’re told to leave the striving up to God, primarily because He isn’t tired at all. But on the other hand, we’re so accustomed to striving with our goals of creating a world that looks like our own worldview, and also with fixing our own broken lives by ourselves. We must be called to DO something, right? The answer is a resounding yes – we are definitely called to do something, but it’s not what we feel. We’re called to remind ourselves to be still and to stop spinning about all the possible outcomes and possibilities this world has to offer.
I write these words with conviction and clarity, not because I fully practice resting my anxious mind regularly, but because I’m already so guilty of not doing these things. I spin. I want the world to look like my mind thinks it should. I catastrophize my uncertainties.
IT’S SO EASY TO CATASTROPHIZE OUR UNCERTAINTIES.
But the final portion of David’s song reveals what God’s really pursuing when we rest, when He invites us to be still…
This didn’t find a home with me until I went back and read it again, this time accentuating the underlined words. You should try it.
If you did that, you’d discover that it’s like God is making a proclamation toward those whose world is crumbling. It’s like He’s reminding us that His purpose is always for His Person to be exalted – just look at that word in the first two lines.
But another purpose is for us to experience a God who is indeed with us, unlike the idols and false gods that Israel was prone to worshipping during David’s reign – gods that would come and go based on a person’s behavior. The Lord Almighty is with us.
THE LORD ALMIGHTY IS WITH US.
We exalt God. We experience His presence. That’s the way life works. For He is the God who is in control of everything that we think is out of control. He alone is the best Person to script this chapter of our world’s story, and He alone is the best Person to script this chapter of your own story too – no matter what you’re going through, no matter how your fears are affecting you because of the uncertainties in your lives.
HE ALONE IS THE BEST PERSON TO SCRIPT THIS CHAPTER OF YOUR OWN STORY, NO MATTER WHAT YOU’RE GOING THROUGH, AND NO MATTER HOW YOUR FEARS ARE AFFECTING YOU BECAUSE OF THE UNCERTAINTIES IN YOUR LIFE.
The point is for us to learn to be still, and then to reap the benefits – not of a pain-free life, but of a life that places our uncertainties and anxieties into His more-than-ready hands.
With childlike faith, we simply learn to live more fully into a complete assurance that God is greater and wiser and stronger and more loving and faithful than anything we’ll ever know in this world. That is the absolute essence of following Jesus, because it’s how He lived every moment of every day. And that’s what it truly means to be still.
Makes me want to sing, “He’s got the whole world in His hands”.
You should sing with me.
See what I mean? You just did it.