Learning to Stop in the Midst of Madness

Psalm 46 is very personal to me. In its precious 11 verses, the poem reveals a macrocosm of life as a believer of God in a fallen and chaotic world. In fact, the psalm is filled with chaos, from earthquakes to mountains falling into ominously deep seas to bits of earth melting like wax to wars among the nations, of which the Lord is apparently playing a role! Chaos!

The psalmist, coming from the musical Sons of Korah, even declares, “Come, see the works of the Lord, who brings devastation on the earth.”

God is front and center in this psalm, working among the chaotic nations, both fighting among and putting an end to fighting among armies. He does what He pleases, the psalmist teaches, and yet provides a refuge for His people in the midst of the storm.

“There is a river — its streams delight the city of God,
the holy dwelling place of the Most High.
God is within her; she will not be toppled.
God will help her when the morning dawns (vv. 4-5).”

The message to Israel was clear: God is their strength and refuge. He is their High Protector. And as sovereign over the nations, He is mighty to save them from chaos and provide them with emotional security as well as physical safety.

The son of Korah then pens a most famous phrase that most Christians undergoing worry and anxiety have undoubtedly heard:

“Be still and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Be still. When the nations rage. Be still. When the earth gives way. Be still. The Lord is by your side. Just be still.

Sounds heavenly, doesn’t it?

Today as I study this psalm, though, I’m dwelling on the simple phrase, “be still.” In the original Hebrew language it means so much more than to take a deep breath. It literally means, “cease striving” or “stop worrying” or “end your working.” It is not just stillness. It’s a cessation of effort to fix a worry or solve a problem that lies outside of your control.

To stop striving means, basically, “Let go and let God.” Ever heard that? I used to think simple phrases like that one were fairly flippant and kinda annoying but now I see that what Psalm 46 is saying is basically, “Let go” of your desire for control, “and let God” deal with it.

Throughout the course of my life, my restless heart has constantly battled the ever-present tendencies to worry about tomorrow. I seem hard-wired to worry, as if it is my internal operating system — “OS John 10.1.” I lose sleep regularly, especially if I have a big event ahead. I think of every scenario that might possibly happen… and even those that have no realistic chance of happening! And I worry about them all.

But they rarely come true.

In Matthew 6, the Lord Jesus said, “Which of you by worrying can add even one hour to his life?” The Master’s question was rhetorical, with a built-in answer: “No one can!” So He said, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.” God will provide what you need, even more than He already provides for the birds of the air and the flowers of the field. Seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness. The daily things of life will be given to you as you seek God.

That’s quite a correlation to Psalm 46! Cease striving in worry and know that God is God. He will protect and provide. He will be exalted above every chaotic situation in this world.

To cease striving in order to focus on who God is is a vital step in living a life that is right-side-up. Whenever you find worry overwhelming you, stop everything you are doing (if possible), and re-focus on your knowledge of God’s character and what He is capable of doing in your world. Then ask the Holy Spirit to tune your heart and mind on God. Stop. Listen. Be still. And whenever future worries try to bump into your mind, whisk them away by re-focusing on God.

Many times I will turn on music that centers my heart. You might read your Bible or pick up a good Christian living book. Maybe you can do all three and then journal about it all! It’s up to you. Just remember that the key to certainly-overcoming the seemingly-overwhelming emotional and spiritual angst of worry is to simply stop focusing on things out of your control and focus on God. Doing so will re-center your restless heart and bolster your faith.

Be God’s!

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