I don’t know about anybody else, but I am terrible at being still. Whilst my body may revere anything vaguely resembling exercise, my brain is never quiet. My head is constantly filled with ever changing thoughts: from things I’ve done, to things I want to do, to intricate theories about my favourite TV shows and books. In amongst all of that, it can sometimes be tricky to fit God into my head. Recently, however, I find myself repeatedly reminded to ‘be still.’
This started a few weeks ago, when myself and a friend were procrastinating by scrolling through a website that sells a range of Christian gifts and stationary. On there, I was drawn to a prayer journal (which is now being used daily), saying ‘Be still’ on the front. That was strike one. After that, I arrived home for lockdown and saw my Mum’s new bag hanging up. This bag too reminded me to ‘be still, and know that I am God.’ That was strike two. Then, a few days ago, I turned to my Bible reading for the day (according to my daily guide). The reading I was given comes from Psalm 46, verse 10. This verse says: ‘Be still, and know that I am God.’ That was strike three. Then, finally, I opened up Facebook, and saw a post from somebody who doesn’t post very often and who I am not in regular contact with. This post featured this same Bible verse on a decorated background. That was strike four. One thing is clear: God wants me to slow down. To be still, spend time with Him, and know that He is God.
So what does this mean, exactly? The world is in a strange state right now. Whilst it may seem like being still would be easy, given that we are currently unable to physically spend time with friends and attend class as normal, our minds are likely more energetic than they have ever been. Filled with anxieties over the physical and mental wellbeing of our friends and families; uncertainties over what the immediate future will bring as plans are thrown into chaos; and attempting to continue our studies online, finding time for God has actually become more difficult than ever. This, of course, also means it has become more important than ever. I’m coming to learn that, whilst it may be impossible to force my brain to be still or focus on God, just the act of trying yields results. In ensuring that I sit down every day with my Bible, study guide, and prayer journal, I am carving out a space in my life for God. It’s important to reassure myself that it doesn’t matter if my concentration isn’t the best, so long as I read the words on the page, write in the journal according to the topics and whatever’s on my mind (which usually happens to be the things which have been filling my mind for most of the day), and give them to God when I’ve finished. It isn’t a perfect system, and I often find my mind wondering throughout the process, but important phrases still jump out at me. Words of comfort and calls to action are made known to me regardless of whether my mind is completely still. My relationship with God is getting deeper every day.
Since I decided to really explore what it means to ‘be still,’ I have discovered one very important thing: it isn’t about forcing your mind not to think about worldly things when you spend time with God. In my experience, trying to force your mind to do one thing makes it do just the opposite. It’s about using those things to increase your focus on God. In writing what’s on my mind in my prayer journal, and keeping these things at the fore when reading my Bible, I’m able to use the things keeping me from God to draw myself closer to Him instead. Whilst many thoughts may swarm around the outskirts of your mind, keeping the central part as ‘God’ allows you to direct your orbit of thoughts towards this stillness (I’m not a physicist, and I’m guessing that is far from a perfect analogy, but oh well). So, in times where our minds are consumed with all kinds of concerns, try to keep steady your central focus on God. Take these distractions to Him not with embarrassment but with honesty, and, like me, you may find that the stillness of your central focus helps bring you closer to the true stillness that is to be found in the comfort of a relationship with God.
Written by Shaina Paggett. Shaina is an SCM Member at Keele Chapel Student Fellowship.