Editor’s note: If your life feels like a hectic, noisy, runaway train, you’re in good company. Nicole Johnson (you may remember her from Women of Faith) shares her story of going from feeling overwhelmed and out of control to finding calm even in the middle of chaotic circumstances. We hope you enjoy this excerpt from her book Creating Calm in the Center of Crazy.
Be still, and know that I am God. — Psalm 46:10
The psalmist here is quoting God. Not that this is a commandment; after all it didn’t make the top ten, but I would say this is a strong suggestion and muy importante.
My personal translation of this verse is: “I can be still and know that God is God, or I can stay busy and keep wondering if I am!” If I’m reading this psalm right, the path to knowing there is a God is being still enough to find out. Because when I am running my world, making all the decisions and calling all the shots, I am at the center of my own universe. When I play God so often, I forget I’m not God. I might even be serving God, but it is mostly in an advisory capacity.
There is an old joke worth sharing: “What is the difference between you and God?”
“I don’t know, what is the difference?”
“God never gets confused and thinks He’s you!”
Stillness provides me the opportunity to keep the “who is whom?” question answered correctly. It allows me to remove myself from the center of my own world, again. I confess to taking up a role I cannot play. I humbly bow before the greatness of God. These deep reminders always make me weep with relief and gratitude. I do want to be like God, but I do not want to be God. I know too well that trying to be God, even subconsciously, creates crazy inside and out.
Peter Kreeft’s commentary on Pascal says as much: “We want to complexify our lives. We don’t have to, we want to. We want to be harried and hassled and busy. Unconsciously, we want the very things we complain about. For if we had leisure, we would look at ourselves and listen to our hearts and see the great gaping hole in our hearts and be terrified, because that hole is so big that nothing but God can fill it.”1
When I am busy playing God, I ignore God. I don’t ask any questions of God or about God. I don’t need to. I dig the hole a lot deeper and refuse to let him fill it. Or if I do ask a question, it’s not a real question, and I’m not listening for an answer. When I’m doing the headless chicken thing I do, I bark questions that are not questions at all, such as, “Elliot, will you put your shoes on, please?” I’m not asking him a question; I’m making a request couched in a question. I don’t listen for his response because I’m not expecting one! I’m expecting his cooperation with my directive. If he doesn’t put his shoes on, I huff, “You’re not listening to me, son!” When the truth is I’m not listening to him. This is why extremely capable, busy, modern people dismiss the concept of God. They never stop to listen. They might ask hard questions of God, but God is rarely, if ever, given the chance to answer. Why did my father die when I was nine? Why does the world have to suffer so horribly? Isn’t it wrong that children are starving? While these look like questions, they are not if people don’t listen for an answer. They are merely rhetorical questions they think they know the answer to: Either God is not there or God does not care about me or the world. Instead of making assumptions about God, it would be more accurate to note that we are not listening or giving God an opportunity to speak to our questions. In order to do that, we would have to stop and be still and face the great gaping hole.
We can come to know more about God than we have ever dared to believe if we gave God the opportunity to respond to us.
This would deepen our knowledge and our faith, but to do this we must be still. I can see this dynamic played out in my relationship with my kids. When I ask Abigail or Elliot to be still, they react as if I’ve asked them to scale the Great Wall of China using a plunger! But unless they can be still, especially when they need or want something, I cannot help very effectively. If Abigail is waving her glass in the air, I cannot fill it with water. Hold it still, please. If Elliot is hopping around, I cannot put a Band-Aid on his scraped knee. I know it hurts, sweetie, but hold it still for just a second. If I didn’t see her fall and Abigail cannot stop crying to tell me what hurts, I feel helpless to make it better. Take a deep breath, honey, take a minute and then tell me where it hurts. I’m not asking the kids to be still for the rest of their lives, or mine, just long enough to allow me to pour the water, or care for the wound, or figure out how to help. Their stillness gives me the best chance to reveal my heart to them.
Isn’t the implication the same for me with God? If I can’t be still either, I am left longing, or wounded, angry, or worse, stuck in doubt that God exists. If I can’t be still, I miss out on the very ways God wants to demonstrate his own character to me.
“Be still and know” is simultaneously a challenge, an invitation, a promise, and even a dare.
Not only has getting still deepened my knowledge of myself and of God, it has created a center of calm in my life.
1 Kreeft, Christianity for Modern Pagans, 168.
Excerpted with permission from Creating Calm in the Center of Crazy by Nicole Johnson, copyright Nicole Johnson.
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Is it easy for you to be still? Or is it hard to be quiet before God and wait to hear Him? What happens when you take time to rest and listen for the voice of Jesus? What happens when you don’t do that for a long time? Come share with us on our blog. We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily
Creating Calm in the Center of Crazy
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