Words have nuanced meanings. Take “take” for instance. Take can mean to buy or chose, “I’ll take one large coffee.” Take can mean going with someone to show them where to go or how to get there, “I’ll take you to the coffee shop.” Take can also mean a certain amount of time to do something, “Our coffee maker only takes a few minutes to brew.” I think I need a cup of coffee now.
In the Bible, words are also like that. The same word can have nuanced or varied meanings. That’s exactly the case with the Hebrew verb translated, “Be still,” in Psalm 46:10.
Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!
The word has three distinct yet related meanings: relax, wait, and let go.* Each one of these meanings has tremendous spiritual implications for each of us. And each meaning teaches us another step in applying this simple command. That first meaning, relax, offers specific direction against our busyness. Emotionally, spiritually, physically, or socially, busyness tends to tighten our tensions rather than relax them.
As a pastor, obeying this meaning is often the hardest part of being still for me. So much about what I end up doing in ministry seems to require a tension, a determination. I set my focus and plow forward. I see a need and move to meet it quickly. I have a message and prepare it (and preach it) intensely. I see a problem and attempt solve it aggressively. I find a sin and work to root it out tirelessly. The great commission looms over my head. The un-reached cry out from our communities, states, and mission fields urging me to press.
Ministry can seem to beg you, woo you, plead with you to do anything but relax. Ministry isn’t the only culprit though. Any of our callings, careers, or ongoing duties can speed us up into a frenzy tempting us to think that busier s better. But right here, in David’s psalm recalling the authority, power, and magnificence of God’s sovereignty, he commands us to relax. To relent our grasp. To essentially lay down, still, in a posture of restful resignation to God’s power.
Recently, my wife and I were discussing something before us in our lives together. With my often restless eagerness and busyness, I was bouncing verbally around and around this issue. As I was speaking, I looked over to see her smile, and gently remind me, “God’s got that.” Her words shattered my restless moment with calming confidence. I thought to myself, “Yes, he does.” And for those next few moments, I befriended David’s instruction here. The stillness of relaxing in God’s control enveloped me in settled assurance.
In your late night toils awake in frustration, God wants you to relax in his power. In your people tensions with some you would rather not have to constantly face, God wants you to relax. In your health anxiousness awaiting a doctor’s phone call to give you the test results, God wants you to relax. He’s commanded it. Be still. Stop squirming. Stop grasping. Stop flexing. Relax.
What lessons have you learned about relaxing along the way? What tools or habits help you practice this command? I’m curious to read your responses.
*Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.