By Anastasia Howland
Perhaps one of the most clichéd pieces of advice you’ll hear is “Be still.” In fact, we’ve heard it so many times that we hardly stand still long enough to hear the reasons why “being still” could be beneficial before hurrying off to the next thing we have on our seemingly endless to-do list. But this reaction doesn’t quite make sense. You’d think that we would want to take a break from rushing around to sit down, breathe, and relax, yet we so often don’t. Why are we so averse to being still?
Our society today is incredibly fast-paced. We are constantly told the only things that matter are progress, production, and the speed with which we can achieve both. “Did you miss tucking your kids in last night because you stayed longer at the office to finish that report? Good—let’s see more of that hard work.” “Did it take you more than 2 weeks to lose those 30 pounds? Stop being lazy—pick up the pace.” “There’s no time to waste—we need all of these things done, and we need them done now.” With this mindset having been drilled into us, it’s easy to think that a block of time spent sitting still couldn’t possibly have any useful purpose. But we would be wrong.
While it’s certainly a difficult art to learn in our loud, fast-paced society, it’s far from being a useless one. Taking time to be still can actually improve our productivity in the long run. If we’re rushing from one thing to the next without pausing for a short break, our brains become exhausted. At this point, we begin producing less than we would if we had taken a break before continuing on to the next thing. In addition to exhausting our brains, we often plague them with anxiety by living in such a hurried manner. We feed them the empty calories of ideas like, “You’ll be left behind if you don’t get this done now,” or “There’s no time for sleep, you’ll be worthless if you don’t finish this tonight.” These phrases may seem motivating, and perhaps to an extent they are. However, these phrases are not nutritious—they do not produce healthy ideas about ourselves. If these are the only things with which we ever feed our brains, we will produce nothing but anxiety. We must give ourselves time to slow down, time to tell ourselves the truth: we will not be left behind, and we are not worthless. We simply need to take a break—to be still—so that we can effectively refuel before continuing.
Although being still is an important art for everyone to practice, it is important particularly for Christians. Jesus tells us in Matthew 22:37-39 that the greatest two commandments are to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,” and to “love your neighbor as yourself.” However, if we don’t take time to “be still” in both prayer and meditation on God’s Word, we often neglect these two greatest commandments. That which is repeated is remembered. As we go about our daily lives in this world, we are often fed with the idea that we must put ourselves before all others—God included. If this isn’t screamed at us from advertisements and billboards, it is whispered within our own sinful selves. We want to rush about, putting ourselves first in everything, yet we are also constantly told that we are never enough. Since these things are so viciously repeated, it’s easy for us to remember them, and to recognize them as truths. It is only when we take the time to be still in prayer that we can focus on the real truths in our minds: we must love the Lord and others above ourselves, but we are not worthless. Our worth is found in our identity as God’s children, and in His all-powerful love for us. We must schedule time each day, even if just a few minutes, to remind ourselves of these truths.
In Psalm 46:10, God proclaims, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” He proclaims this in the middle of a psalm that speaks of the nations at war and the world falling apart. When we feel like our world is falling apart and we rush from one thing to the next, we must remember to slow down for a few moments, and to be still. It’s more than just a cliché—it’s a command from our Lord. We must be still, know that He is God, and we are not. We must be still, and remind ourselves of His great love. We must stop hurrying, even if just for a few moments, to simply be still.