In high school, I stepped between two girls getting ready to fight one another. One was my friend. I don’t remember the other girl. With fist raised and poised to fire, my friend would hit me if she let it fly. Instead, she looked me in the eyes and said, “Only because it’s you.” Then she walked away.
In Psalm 46:10, the “be still” phrase gets at stopping this same sort of activity. The original word — rapa — means to “slacken, let down, cease.” It’s used in the sense of someone stepping between two warriors in battle and telling them to stop fighting, to stop their frantic activity.
So, the idea to “be still” goes beyond just taking a little time to relax. Beyond stopping the frantic pace, acknowledgment of the pointlessness of the activity is also important. In other words, we must stop and realize that our frantic activity will not produce any positive outcome.
Are you Frantic?
Frantic is one of those words that sounds ridiculous the more you say it. And when you consider all of what it means, it’s equally absurd to live in that state.
Frantic (adj.): desperate or wild with excitement, passion, fear, pain, etc.; frenzied
Interestingly, Jesus’ parents were once frantic in their search for him.
“His parents didn’t know what to think. ‘Son,’ his mother said to him, ‘why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been frantic, searching for you everywhere.’” (Luke 2:48)
I find comfort knowing that the mother and father entrusted to raise the Son of God were also frantic parents at times. Makes my sometimes frantic parenting seem a little less unreasonable.
Of course, we have plenty in our lives beyond parenting that can make us frantic… Cleaning the house like crazy to get ready for guests. Scrambling madly at the end of the quarter to meet quota. Racing from one task to the next hoping to be somewhere on time once in a while. We’ve all felt frantic at some point, and I’m guessing no one really enjoys it.
Mental Time Out
While we can’t always avoid being frantic — though we often can with some planning and simplifying — we can choose to not live in it. We can choose to not let it be our standard mode of operation. To do so, however, we must intentionally cease and decide to “be still.”
In the broadest sense, this means we need mental time outs. Especially in the busiest times of life, we need mental down time. Our brains need periods where they don’t actively focus or engage and can just wander. In fact…
“Time off is what your brain thrives on.” (Shape Magazine / March 2017)
What’s more, our bodies usually give us signs that we need this time off.
- Can’t think straight
- Making mistakes
Again, we all have moments where these happen, but we need to pay attention when patterns emerge, when we begin to dwell there. After all, we can reap some pretty amazing benefits if we allow ourselves to “be still” on a regular basis.
“After you take a mental time-out, you’re better at creative thinking and coming up with clever ideas and solutions.” (Shape Magazine / March 2017)
Looking at that start of Psalm 46:10 again, but this time in several versions, helps draw out this idea of down time or time outs.
“Be still…” (ESV)
“Cease striving…” (NASB)
“Stop your fighting…(Holman)
“Be in awe…” (ISV)
“Let go [of your concerns]!” (God’s WORD ®)
“Let be…” (JPS Tanakh 1917)
Long before research proved we needed time to reflect and sort things out mentally, God told us as much. And while the mental experts say to let our minds wander, God’s word gives further instruction as to how to truly give our minds the crucial rest they need. We find the answer in the second part of the “be still” phrase that begins Psalm 46:10.
“…and know that I am God.”
What does knowing God is God do for our efforts to stop the frantic in our lives? Matthew Henry tells us in his commentary on Psalm 46:6-11:
“This shows the perfect security of the church, and is an assurance of lasting peace… in silent submission let us worship and trust our almighty Sovereign. Let all believers triumph in this, that the Lord of hosts… has been, is and will be with us; and will be our refuge. Mark this, take the comfort and say, ‘If God be for us, who can be against us? With this, through life and I death, let us answer every fear.”
This hits home because, truly, what is the source of our frantic activity? Fear. Fear of not doing, being, saying, making and creating enough.
I’m not sure how this exactly plays out in your life, but I know for me having God as my constant stability gives me what I need to “be still” even as life races on around me. Sure, some days are more difficult than others, but I know that going to that still place where I know God is God keeps the frantic from consuming me.