Striving to be still

wave-384385_960_720.jpg“Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.” (Psalm 46:1-3 ESV)

Years ago, I had an amazing spiritual experience. I was living in the Caribbean at the time, and often had to travel by boat across rivers, which for most part, was quite enjoyable. One day as I arrived at a wharf to take a speedboat, I noticed that there were heavy clouds in the sky and a strong breeze was blowing. I had just spent the weekend with a friend, and was returning to my hospital duties. My friend, Bernice, on seeing the bad weather, assumed that I would either return to her place or choose a steamer for the trip. However, to avoid delay, I decided to take the speedboat as planned.

It had begun to rain as I stepped into boat, but about halfway to my destination, there was a furious thunderstorm, and the sea was growing boisterous. Soon, our little boat was being lashed by huge waves, and tossed about so wildly, that I feared it would capsize. My life jacket seemed like useless protection against these waves. I did the only thing a Christian can do in such circumstances – I began to pray and sing a chorus. I could barely hear myself over the roaring waters, but all of a sudden, I had a feeling being drawn into a cocoon of amazing peace. All doubts vanished and a supernatural inner calm descended into my spirit – and with it the joyful realisation that my whole life had been worth it because I had known my Saviour. The knowledge that Christ had saved me filled my mind as never before, leaving no room for anxieties or guilt feelings or any troubling thoughts. He alone mattered at that moment. Wonderful! For once I had a foretaste of heaven.

“The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” (Psalm 46:7 ESV)

In the midst of great instability, when the odds are stacked against us and we seem to be alone struggling against the wind, our aim should be to return to our ‘peace cocoon’ – a place where we begin to 1. Trust in the name of our God, and 2. Rely on Him. He is able to constrain every evil circumstance and speak to the turbulent waves smashing against our lives, “Peace, be still” (Mark 4:39) and “This far you may come, but no farther, and here your proud waves must stop” (Job 38:11 NKJV).

I had been literally swept into the eye of the storm, and found it to be a place of the most perfect rest imaginable – because of the presence of Jesus. I believe this peace is what God wants us to enjoy on a daily basis. The disciples often gave way to panic, and were easily alarmed when faced with danger. But, peace was Christ’s parting gift to them before He left for the cross.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. ” (John 14:27 ESV).

The NLT puts it like this – “Peace is my gift to you…”

After listing out the reasons why a Christian might remain bold and confident in the face of turmoil, the psalmist gives a command from God Himself, “Be still and know that I am God.” Stillness of the soul is necessary for a close walk with God. He speaks to us in a still small voice, so we need to be quiet and pay close attention, as Elijah learnt –

Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice… Then the Lord said to him(1 Kings 19:11-13, 15 NKJV).

For most people, our moods tend to vary and we are affected by all sorts of emotions, driven by external circumstances. Some people experience extreme changeability of moods, as a personality weakness, or in worst cases, as a pathological condition, where these fluctuations have little to do with outward conditions.

David often experienced his emotions being tossed to and fro, as if by the waves. His life was constantly in danger from King Saul and other enemies. The object of his striving in prayer, when faced with trouble, was to cease from the striving of the flesh – to swim above the waves that assailed his soul, and come to a place of rest, the safe harbour of the soul. Once he had reached this resting place, the presence of God was experienced so overwhelmingly, that he began to sing praises.

Stillness of the soul is a sign of victory. A strong Christian character is marked by the ability to maintain an attitude of quietness and confidence even in adverse circumstances, and this is what our Counsellor, the Holy Spirit is teaching us every day. We are not called to be detached – in the Buddhists manner – but to maintain our Christian integrity in every situation that confronts us, and with the Holy Spirit’s enablement, to emerge as victors, and imitators of Jesus Christ.

None of us should feel frustrated if we do not yet feel peaceful and calm in every situation. We are on a journey, a pilgrimage. In our upward growth in the Christian graces, we all begin somewhere on the ladder. We have been created differently – each of us have our share of positive and negative traits. As Christians, our goal should be to overcome the negative traits and grow in the virtues. And the Holy Spirit is here to help us.

So if by nature, we are prone to worry or anxiety, irritability or anger, or a mixture of these, we should surrender our emotions to God. In prayer, commit every weakness to Him, and ask for the grace to be an overcomer.

As God helps us, we must also take little steps in faith. The Holy Spirit often builds us up in stages – ‘a little here, a little there’ – and we shouldn’t always expect dramatic results. But we can all cooperate by surrendering our wills in the little things we do. If your natural inclination is to give in to worry or to anger, decide, in advance, to pause for a moment when the next upsetting incident occurs. These upsetting incidents are like the wind and waves – tearing away at your boat to wreck your spiritual progress. But driven by the Holy Spirit, they will be used to propel you to your destination.

So pause for a moment – only a moment – and say a short prayer before you respond. Allow the peace from above to touch your mind, and still your agitated spirit. Don’t expect perfection the first time, but be firmly resolved not to quit. Discouragement is natural when we fail, but but we must not give in to it. Pray instead. The solution to most problems lie in prayer. Through prayer, we overcome.

As we keep at these exercises, we will observe a steady rise on the chart of our spiritual progress, albeit with some plateaus and an occasional dip. A year or two down the line, we will realise that while we may not be quite where we would like to be, we are in a better place than we were before.

As we fight the good fight, let us remember that the goal of our fight is to be still and know Him, and when we are still, then victory is ours.

Father, thank You for that You are always with us – in our going out and coming in. Your presence calms our spirits, and we know that You will bring us safely to our destination. Help us to remain calm and relaxed at all times, trusting in You. Teach us how to be overcomers – undaunted by the storms that come against us. In Jesus’ name.

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