February 20, 2021
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.” The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. (Psalm 46:1,10-11)
Have you ever counted the minutes in which you have the opportunity to experience silence in a given day or week? Time which is truly devoid of sound or noise? Not just the absence of physical noise, but the noise in your life which threatens to stifle or even suffocate your relationship with God?
I offered to contribute to this devotional when I saw that “silence” was one of the given themes. I have realized over the past several months that it is a concept which I purport to practice, but in reality, I have been falling short. My hope is that delving more deeply into the reasons I need silence, and putting my thoughts about it down on paper, will lead to a greater commitment to practice it during this Lenten season and beyond. Anyone want to join me?
The last year has been a challenging one for many of us, but it has also presented us with opportunities for change. As a person accustomed to long working hours, stressful business travel, single parenting responsibilities and an aversion to saying “no” to anyone, the combination of the pandemic and a bout with breast cancer provided me a rare chance to slow down and get my spiritual health “in shape.” More time at home, more time in nature, more time with my daughter, more time for study, more time in general. I thought, surely this is a gift from God, albeit in a bit of a strange package, and I need to take advantage of it.
Exactly one year after being presented with the gift of “a chance to slow down,” I forced myself to get on my spiritual fitness scale and assess my relationship with my Father. Have I used this gift wisely? Is my bond with him stronger? Is my heart more open to receiving his grace due to the slower pace of life?
Looking back, I found that although I did succeed in finding refuge and strength in him during this challenging year, the heavy burdens of anxiety and worry still crept stealthily back into my heart and mind. The noise of the earthly world (i.e. temptation and just plain old everyday life) interfered with my connection to God, even though theoretically, I had much more time for him.
So how did this happen? How did I allow myself to squander this gift? I had a free pass to God’s “fitness center,” but I still allowed those “kilos” of anxiety and worry back into my life. My mistake? I didn’t go the distance. Similar to a physical fitness program, our spiritual fitness requires commitment to some challenging exercises in order to reach our targets. I, however, had neglected some important parts of the program, in particular, the practice of silence. Although I started out well, I slipped back into the bad habits of daily life and talked too much, listened too little, and avoided the true stillness which is necessary to hear God’s voice.
The first verse of this amazing Psalm reads, God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble and ends with the direction to “be still and know that I am God.” Slowing down can certainly be a first step to a closer relationship to God, but it does not equate to being still, and without conscious engagement in the act of being still, the noise of our earthly world threatens to dampen or even drown out his voice in our hearts. Without going the distance in our practice of stillness, we risk missing out on experiencing the comfort of God’s refuge and strength.
This practice is not easy. The act of being silent takes work, discipline and even sacrifice. However, if we can learn to turn down the volume of this earthly world and replace it with stillness more often, we can rest assured that our Lord Almighty will carry us through the darkest of nights and we will be able to celebrate the love of his Son, Jesus Christ, today and forever.
Dear Lord, help us to turn down the sound and spend quiet time with you more often. Remind us that the stillness that you bid us to practice has exponential impact when we manage to find it. Provide us the discipline, patience and perseverance to wait for you in silence, so that we may bask in the warmth of your refuge when we most need it. In your name we pray. Amen.