Be Still and Know (Psalm 46)

       I am blessed to have such an incredible working relationship with the high school right down the road from our church. Their Choral Director is my church pianist… and is absolutely phenomenal in both capacities. More than an excellent choir director, this woman is a true witness for the Lord right where He has placed her. Our church choir is going to sing a new piece entitled Be Still this Sunday. She (the HS choir director) is doing the same piece with her varsity choir for UIL this year, and invited me to come work with them a bit today during class time. This Sunday, several of their choir members will join our Worship Choir here at Calvary to present Be Still together.

       Today during the High School choir’s rehearsal time, I was moved by the Spirit of God. I read to them the Psalm from which this phrase “Be still and know that I am God” comes (Psalm 46). They are incredible musicians. But more than that, I could honestly feel the presence of God as I saw many of them worshipping Him and approaching His throne of grace while they sang. An incredible feeling to experience in a High School choir room, for sure.

       We use this phrase quite often, as Christians… “Be still and know that I am God.” It is directly applicable to countless situations. Especially when calamity strikes. However, it is necessary to understand that we only have part of the picture. As humans, we only see in tunnel-vision.
       When catastrophe comes, whether in my family, my church, or somewhere far removed, I am inclined to first think of how it affects me personally. Then, I can branch out to how it affects those closest to it. And eventually – if I’m big-pictured enough –  I can see how it affects people/conditions all over the world. However, I can never see the complete picture. Tunnel-Vision is part of our human nature. Even if I am the most empathetic of humanity, that only means that my tunnel is slightly larger than most others’.

       When catastrophe hits, people have many questions. The one I hear the most is something like, “Why would a loving God let this happen?” Have you ever heard someone ask that question? Have you ever ASKED that question? I know I have (heard and asked). The most truthful answer I have for that question is always, “I don’t know.” I cannot pretend to be God. His ways and His thoughts are much higher than my own (Is 55:9). At best, I might have an educated guess or presumption about what God might gain in any given situation, but what seems right to me often proves useless (Pr 14:12 and 16:25). After all, who can declare God guilty of anything (Job 34:29)?

       Often times, we have to remove ourselves a bit from the grand complication. There must be something greater going on. Surely there is a greater purpose, a larger picture of which this disastrous instance is only but a stroke on the canvas. Is it possible to not understand, yet have peace and comfort at the same time?

       Psalm 46 is too long for me to post in its entirety. And I don’t want to do it injustice by selecting verses or snippets. I’d rather you read the whole thing yourself. So, here, read Psalm 46 from your Bible… or if you wish, follow this link to read it online… then come back and finish the blog:

       In light of recent events… especially considering the earthquake and tsunami in Japan this year, the earthquake in Haiti last year, and the tsunami in Indonesia a few years back… this Psalm, if you’ll let it, can do your heart a world of comfort. Well, it has for me anyway.

       In a world scarred by confusion, disaster, and calamity, God is our refuge and strength. Ever-present. Even when the earth trembles, mountains tumble into the sea, waters roar ferociously, and war encompasses the nations… God is at work.

His plan is unscathed. 
His character is unchanged. 
His grace is unyielding. 
His love is unmoved. 

The Hebrew word translated “Be Still” in verse 10 is the word raphah. Here are the definitions:

1) to let drop, abandon, relax, refrain, forsake
2) to let go
3) to refrain, let alone
4) to be quiet

       I can’t imagine being a father looking out over the rubble that once was my home – with my wife and children at my side… or possibly not even knowing if my wife and children were alive. I just can’t fathom the depths of that situation. My heart hurts for those in every country who are scarred by recent tragedy. My children and I pray for them every night.

“Let go,” says God. “Relax.” “Be quiet.” “Be still.” “And know that I am God.”

       When we’re right in the middle of a stressful, frustrating, or dangerous situation, it is very difficult to just “let go.” By nature, our tunnel-vision kicks in and leads the charge against the knowledge that God is still God. We focus on the immediate. The imperative. And the unknown. In this passage, God is saying to back up and get some perspective.
       This is not an uncommon concept. We have many techniques, such as counting to ten, taking deep breaths, or reciting a favorite poem, that help us to slow down a bit and gain a bigger perspective. We apply these techniques constantly in our lives. Massive catastrophe takes the same diligence. Instead of allowing our anxious, confused minds to dictate our thought processes and guide our movements, we muse learn to “be still, and KNOW that He is God.”

       In every given disastrous situation, there are many uncertainties. If there is nothing stable on which to ground ourselves, we lose track of reality. I was conversing with an ex-airplane pilot this week who reiterated to me at one point the importance of the phrase, “trust your gauges.” When you’re in a stall or lost in clouds as pilot, you can’t always trust intuition, sense of direction, or feeling. But you can always trust your gauges. Much like this, God is always trustworthy.

       The ultimate reality is that God has not changed. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. And when everything else in your world is shaken, moved, toppled, or washed away, He remains stable. When everything else is questionable, God is constant. Because of that, even in the most dire of circumstances, when we just don’t understand what’s happening or why, we can “be still.” We can back up from the situation and gain a God-sized perspective. As Paul put it in Philippians chapter four, we can have peace which passes understanding.

       He is present in our pain. Available in our distress. Strong when we are weak. A refuge when we need shelter. Give of your time and resources in aid, yes. Be empathetic, absolutely. Pray, imperatively. But above all else… Be still, and know that He is God.

Grace and Peace,
Tony

2 thoughts on “Be Still and Know (Psalm 46)

  1. Just a thought on "Why did God let this happen or why did God let this happen to me?". I get this question over and over again. My answer to this is that we live in a fallen world. A world where evil is present and God has given us free will to choose good or evil. Therefore, some will choose evil which will result in hurt, catastrophe and sadness. I'm sure it breaks God's heart as much or more than it breaks ours when we see evil effect the lives of people.

  2. Bren – An excellent answer for personal pain resulting from an individual's choice of evil over good. And I know that in your specific area of work, you deal with this quite often. Do you agree that the question becomes a little more difficult to answer when it is referring to an "Act of God" which no one chose – such as an earthquake, tsunami, hurricane, etc.? As Christians, we can see how this is a direct result of sin having entered the world through Adam's disobedience. But for the non-Christian, who does not understand that concept, it is almost a different ballgame. Many times someone who is wrestling with the idea that there is a "loving God out there" will be perplexed by the reality of an "unchosen" catastrophe – one for which there is none to "blame" BUT God. And if pain is only experienced because of someone's choice of evil over good, then that makes God guilty of acting in evil. Even with a human cause – that someone chose evil over good – the logical question that follows is, "Why would God ALLOW this evil to happen to me? If He is in control, He could've stopped this event." That is a true statement. At some point – in both kinds of circumstances (human cause or God cause) – it is necessary to back up and realize that God has the whole picture and we can only see part of it. Because of God's very nature (His being "God" and all)… often the bet answer for why He allows certain events or catastrophes is simply because He is God. He has a greater understanding and a wider scope of view than we could ever contemplate or grasp. After Job fussed about this for quite some time, God's answer to him was:"Would you really challenge My justice? Would you declare Me guilty to justify yourself? Do you have an arm like God's? Can you thunder with a voice like His?" – Job 40:8-9.Your Thoughts?

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