The Context of Stillness
By Katherine Britton
"Be still, and know that I am God." - Psalm 46:10
How many times have you heard this verse? A hundred? A thousand? This snippet of a psalm is a pet verse of mine. It constantly pops into my head when I start getting too busy or stressed out. Ironically, I hadn't taken time to read the whole psalm in months until the other night, and I had no recollection of the verses surrounding my favorite one-liner. Here's a sampling of the other verses in Psalm 46:
"Though the earth gives way…" (vs. 2)
"Though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea…" (vs. 2)
"The nations rage, the kingdoms totter…" (vs. 6)
"Be still and know that I am God… I will be exalted in the earth!" (vs. 10)
"The God of Jacob is our fortress." (vs. 11)
I had been picturing an idyllic, Psalm-23-ish passage as the setting for my pet verse, but the context is completely different. This psalm is actually the meditation of a man holding back fear with faith. In a setting of uncertainty, war, and all-around "trouble" (vs. 1), the psalmist focuses on the peace that comes from being the presence of God... even though the earth around him threatens to fall apart. The verse holds even more power in this context than in my imagined setting, doesn't it?
I love the Psalms because of their deep meditations on humanity confronted with God's holiness and faithfulness. I can see real men writing the lines, reminding themselves of the bigger context for their troubles. I see people who - like me - wondered what would happen next in this life. But every one of them comes to the realization that they serve a God who supersedes their worries and replaces them with worship. The psalmists heard the command to "be still and know" and found that God blew their imaginations.
I often look at looming elections and financial woes and start getting jittery, wondering about outcomes and impacts. In times like this, I slip into a mentality that thinks "being still" and listening to God can only happen in Psalm 23's green pastures. But the real context of Psalm 46 tells me otherwise. God's amazing peace works most powerfully when the world's craziness reaches a crescendo. Hope lives amid despair, not perfection. Like they say, context is everything.
Intersection of Faith & Life: Look up your favorite one-liners of the Bible today, and read the surrounding passages and chapters. How does the context add to your understanding of the verse? What more does it reveal about living the Christian faith?
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