“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. The nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The LORD Almighty is with us; The God of Jacob is our fortress. Come and see what the LORD has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; He burns the shields with fire. He says, ‘Be still and know that I am God.’” (Psalm 46:1-10 NIV, emphasis added)
The words, “Be still and know,” have been words from Scripture I meditate on when I am troubled or stressed. I would take a deep breath in and say, “Be still.” I would slowly breathe out and say, “and know…” Most times, using this method of turning to God and giving all to Him was helpful. During a season in my life when a family member was in crisis, as I would try it did not work. I struggled, cried out to God, asked others to pray for and with me and the situation. A friend of mine called and told me she was praying for me. She told me God placed a verse on her heart for me. “Be still and know…” Seriously? Again? She was not sure why. I was not either, but I wanted to seek God because at the time I thought I was seeking Him and wondered what it was He was telling me through this familiar verse. But I know one thing for sure: No part of me was still. I was in trauma as was my family. Am I the only one that, when going through a crisis, truly believes–or perhaps the right word is “feels”–that God can end wars and chaos in others’ lives, but it feels like He will not move like that in mine? As I read through the Psalm the context of the words He says before “Be still and know…” struck deep in my heart. It is a command. Was I going to be obedient?
It became clear to me that I was not hearing all that God had to say to me in these words. I was not being obedient. I sat with the Holy Spirit and asked Him to speak to me. I asked Him to open my heart that I might hear Him. I began to search deeper into the meaning of the words found on my phone dictionary app (2023 Merriam-Webster, Inc.). I find insight into God’s Word through the dictionary so many times. I look up the meaning of simple words because I wonder why the interpreters choose the words they choose. Is there meaning behind the words they choose? Ok, I know it sounds silly. Who does not know the definition of the words be, still, and know? Well, as it turns out I did not! At least not in the context the Holy Spirit was showing me.
The definitions for “be:”
- to have identity with
- to constitute the same idea or object
Right away. I was reminded of where my identity comes from. My constitution is made up of the image of God. “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; …’” (Gen. 1:26a). It caused me to meditate on how often I confidently be? How often do any of us really own the fact that our constitution, our being, who we are in our inner being is made in the image of God? This was, is and always will be His perfect plan for us. Yes, we sin. Yes, we fall short. But this does not change the creation story. It does not change the Creator’s mind when He looked upon all He created and said it was very good. So now when I read the scripture, “Be still and know…”, I hear myself being addressed, “Image bearer.” It causes me to settle. It is a call now to attentiveness.
Then I looked to the word, “still.” There are many definitions of “still.” A still photo, for example. But for our purpose the ones that apply are:
- to become motionless or silent
I do not think I am alone when I say that sitting still and being still are not the same. How our minds can run while we sit? Quiet and being settled in our minds and hearts can elude us. There are so many lies, fears, anxieties we have picked up in this broken world. We are fighting a war. Christ warns us, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John10:10). Much of this battle is fought in our minds. This definition left me struggling. How can I be still on my own?
What did I know about know? I was hoping when I turned to this definition somehow, I would find an answer. I was not disappointed. Here are several definitions:
- to perceive directly: have direct cognition of
- to have understanding of
- to recognize the nature of
- to recognize as being the same as something previously known
- to be aware of the truth or factuality of: be convinced or certain of
As I was reading these definitions my heart was leaping, saying “YES!” I know God. I know Him directly as my deliverer out of an abusive marriage. I know cognitively His Word has renewed my mind. He has given me understanding through His Spirit who lives in me. I recognize His nature because “it is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20). I know Him from all He has previously done as my Provider, Sustainer, Comforter, Wonderful Counselor, Abba Father, and Savior. I know the facts about Him because He has given us His Word, and I am certain of it.
Ok, you have been patient with me and all my linguistics and definitions, but what does all of this have to do with helping me through my crisis? In my journaling I worked my way backwards through the definitions as the Holy Spirit reminded me of what I know about God–all the things I listed above about His characteristics, what His Word tells me and what I have experienced in my own life. I know in faith and His promises, and I know from experience who God is. Because I know who God is and because I know I am made in His image, I can be. I no longer need to meet a standard that the world wants of me. I can be. Because I know and when I be I am far more able to be still. Lies fall apart considering His truth, worries and fear are counteracted. I am quiet when I know Him.
When we are struggling as with most things in our life, we want it to end immediately. The above was a meditation I did over weeks. I was seeking. At first, I was just seeking relief. Then I began to seek more of Him. I was obedient because “He says,” I found Him and He blessed me abundantly beyond anything I could have hoped or imagined (Eph 3:20). The crisis is still present. However, He has lifted me above the storm, and it is well with my soul. I can now “Be still and know.”
When I started writing about this verse the things in the world were not what they are now. As I read this psalm now it is as if I am reading current events. The tragedy of war in the Mideast and Ukraine and the death of so many children and innocent civilians and the basic human needs of safety, shelter, food, and water is heart breaking. What has not changed since the sons of Korah penned this psalm, and never changes, is our God. He was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be. We cannot know why all the tragedy happens, but there is so much we do know about our God. We must cling to what we know.
Doreen Weiss is a Licensed Professional Counselor and the founder of Enduring Hope Counseling. She received her Master’s in Counseling from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and her Bachelor of Arts in Community Ministries from Geneva College.