“Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)
Psalm 46 is always a helpful place to turn, especially as we continue to struggle with the effects of a global pandemic. The psalm opens with the reassuring words: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” It recounts the character and power of God even in the midst of turmoil. The psalm concludes, however, with a command. It is simple yet profound: “Be still and know that I am God.”
You would think that as we approach the one-year anniversary of the start of the pandemic, we would be very good at being still. For the past year we have largely been confided to our houses, commanded to stay at home and to stay away from others to avoid infection. You would think this would leave ample time for being still.
Yet, of course, that is not the case, is it? Although we are not able to go out and socialise as before, we are still able to be as busy and noisy as ever. For parents being asked to stay at home hardly removes you from the noise and demands of children (whether babies or teenagers!) Working from home dissolves the barriers between work and home, and so you might find yourself working more hours than before. Add to that the seemingly never ending stream of movies, music, games and much more we can access on our computers and TVs. Being at home does not necessarily lead to being still.
The philosopher Blaise Pascal famously wrote back in the 17th century, “I have discovered that all the unhappiness of men arises from one single fact, that they cannot stay quietly in their own chamber.” A lot has changed since that time, but I suspect our inability to sit and be quiet has not!
The fact is, being still can be a battle. We fight against distractions, diversions and our own disquieted soul. But it is a battle worth fighting.
We need to know that God is our strength and refuge, at all times and especially know. We can read Psalm 46 and know this, and it is a comfort. But we will never truly and fully know this wonderful truth unless we allow it to sink down deep into our soul, unless we allow it to speak more loudly than the other things that clamour for our attention. We will never know it fully unless we are still.
We don’t know how long these pandemic restrictions will last and when we will once again be able to meet with others and socialise. Perhaps while they last we can see this as an opportunity to pursue stillness. Even among the demands and distractions that lockdown brings, to take some time to pause, take a deep breath, and be still.