Be Still (Psalm 46:10) is a big deal. A relative put it over a door frame, someone posted it near an interstate in Minnesota, a woman at Bible study has Psalm 46:10 for a Bible cover, and I’ve purchased ‘Be Still’ gifts for friends. It is also a mantra for people in recovery. Indeed, my Christian therapist reminds me often: ‘Be Still’.
Which means I have researched it quite a bit. It’s just what I do. Educating myself is a major way that I cope with an anxious disposition. After all, God did declare, through the prophet Hosea, ‘my people perish for lack of knowledge.’ I like to make good and sure that I don’t resemble that observation.
But I digress. In short: I’ve known for a while that Be Still is used in New Age religions. ‘Be Still and know that I am God’ is a mantra to affirm human divinity. I found at least one spiritual guru, in a quick google search, who admits that he prefers using this Bible verse over those found in the (Hindu) Vedas; (paraphrasing him from this link). Chanting this Psalm, as if you are saying it about yourself, affirms that one actually is God*. (*if you believe that; which I do not).
Contrast that with the belief that God alone is God; which is the cornerstone of Biblical Christianity. The Bible teaches that Jesus is the stone that does not break. There are but two choices in Biblical Christianity: be willingly broken, (aka born again), take up your cross and follow Jesus, and live eternally. Or, resist being broken, only to be utterly broken against your will, and die eternally.
Meanwhile the therapized meaning of be still is compelling in our fast paced world: quiet your mind. Focus on your breath. Calm down and submit. Contain your fear and thereby retrain your neural networks to stop firing off stress hormones…the visual might look like this: (I love her sunglasses, btw)
But when reading Psalm 46 in context (reading at least a chapter before and after a single verse can give the context), it talks of devastation.
A visual from this psalm would look a bit like the aftermath of a hurricane or earthquake that was followed up by a world-wide civil war, which God then stepped in and stopped.
Some words used are: earth melting, mountains quaking and falling into the heart of the sea, as well as the failing of entire kingdoms/nations. All of that is countered with the steadfast goodness of God, and with God’s permanence on His throne.
Psalm 46:8-10 reads:
Come and see what the Lord has done,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
In other words, God is allowing the earth to natural-disaster-its-self up to the very end of the end. To those nations still clashing and resisting, He offers the following rebuke: “Be still and know that I am God… I will be exalted.”
Jesus used similar language when He told a raging sky and sea: Be Still! (it then became still). His disciples were in the boat with Him. Witnessing His power over creation likely caused them to tremble in new ways as they wondered who He was. Throughout the gospel accounts, Jesus soothed His disciples fears of Him as they become more assured of their salvation through Him alone. The source of greatest fear also became its reliever. As John Newton famously wrote in Amazing Grace, ‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear; and grace my fears relieved.’ Similarly, scripture tells us that fear is the beginning of wisdom.
Knowing that I am in the boat with Jesus and that He can, by a single word, quiet the storm; it is that which quiets my earthly fears and reworks them into a proper and pure fear of God, and thereby God’s grace can allay those fears very well. Basically: self-absorbed fears are made small and inconsequential in the face of my fear and love of an awesome God. Taking that powerful fear to the very source is then the only thing which can bring true peace and trust in Him.
In summation: I do not believe the phrase Be Still is telling us that we are God. Nor is it urging us to be quiet or to check out of our reality in order that we can have fewer fears, more inner peace, or grow closer to God through silence or immobility. Oh, it is very good to carve out quiet time; Jesus did that often. I’m not saying it is not. And we are to take every thought captive to Christ; so capturing our fear-based thoughts and retraining our damaged neural networks can be a worthy pursuit as well. (I’ve been doing it for several years now).
Rather, I am pointing out that Psalm 46 is far more worshipful than a mere entreaty to take some ‘down time’ for ourselves.
It is a rebuke that God alone is God; and we are not. It is a call to TRUST Him, to worship Him, to quit being afraid of the storm which He can stop with one word. Faith put not in Christ Consciousness or inner divinity**; but in the actual, living, resurrected, ruler of the universe: God/Man = Jesus.
To me entering into worship of Creator God is much more powerful at retraining my self-absorbed brain than simply being still for a few moments so my neural networks can re-fire properly. Which is another reason why I think Psalm 46:10 isn’t actually about me, or my need for quiet time. It’s about Him. Amazing, Powerful, Worthy-of-Worship, Almighty–HIM.
So I hope ‘they’ (whoever they are) keep right on slapping Be Still on interstate signs and t-shirts. Because I like all the reminders that God is God (and I am not).
(Disclaimer: these are my personal opinions and beliefs as of this writing. I reserve the right to change my opinions based upon new information and study.)
**If you seek a deeper Christian perspective, I love the testimony and teachings of Warren B. Smith, a social worker and former New Age follower. To paraphrase him, he was once ‘dressed all in orange telling everyone he was divine’ yet somehow even in that; he became a born-again Christian.