- I sat down to devote some time to being still before God and instead spent twenty minutes thinking about how to pay all the bills and still have any money left over.
- I found a quite place to meditate on the goodness of Jesus, and promptly fell asleep.
- I set aside time in my schedule to ponder the greater mysteries of the cross, and grace and God, and after 15 minutes realized I’d just been dwelling on what my friend said yesterday that hurt my feelings.
- I planned to start my day in quite reflection and prayer. I got up extra early and began…a half hour later I was frustrated by the fact that I had wasted the time flitting in my mind from one thing to the next to the next with increasing anxiety over the amount of obligations I had waiting for me this day.
Why is it that when my body is still suddenly my mind is sprinting?
Maybe these types of experiences don’t happen to you, but they sure do to me.
Being still before God seems so enticing and so attractive…until I try it. Why does being still so often end up as so frustrating rather than so rewarding? Could it be that by the time I recognize my need for it I have so many concerns and burdens that I shouldn’t be surprised that they all come crashing in the moment I stop to take a breath? Could it be that when I’m finally still I fall asleep, not because I don’t care about God or love him, but simply because my constant on-the-go lifestyle has left me exhausted and I just needed the rest?
I think, if we’re willing, we can learn a lot about ourselves – and what we need – the moment we get quiet and stop doing.
This can be scary. Sometimes we’d rather live in oblivion. Sometimes, we’re moving so fast and staying so busy as a subconscious way of protecting ourselves from what’s lurking just below the surface of our frantic movement.
This verse in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians can really help when it comes to being still.
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5)
I don’t know that Paul had being still before God in mind when he wrote these words, but the concept is solid. And I’ve found that it works.
When I’m seeking to be still before God and my mind starts to bounce maniacally from one thing to the next, the temptation is to fight it. To try to shove the thoughts aside to “beat your brain into submission,” so to speak.
But look at what Paul says, “we take captive every thought to make it obedient…”
He is capturing the thoughts, and then bringing them into obedience to Christ. So he’s not ignoring them, he’s engaging them, he’s getting a hold of them, he’s looking closely at them to check and see if they are in line with Christ.
Take my examples from the beginning:
1) Thinking – worrying – about bills to pay and money. What I should do is acknowledge that I am worrying about this, remind myself that the Bible says not to worry, capture these thoughts and give them Christ. Instead of fighting them off and trying to push them down I should express my need for His help not to worry. Suddenly I’m being still and being engaged with God about something very relevant to my current experience.
2) Ever fall asleep when you’re trying to spend some time quietly with God? Felt guilty about it? Why? Do we really believe that God is so egotistical that He would rather deprive us of the sleep our body needs than to let us rest? Could it be that our rest is His gift? Not to mention the lesson learned here: I’m moving to fast, not resting enough. I need to slow down. Then I’ll have more opportunites for stillness before God.
3) Dwelling on something someone said? Take the thought captive and make it obedient to Jesus. Am I holding a grudge? Do I need to talk with them about it? Do I need to let it go and let God have it and stop dwelling on it or letting myself be defined by it?
4) Anxiety over the days duties? What’s that other letter of Paul’s say?
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Phil.4:6
(It’s almost like God knew that sometimes we would become anxious.) So taking this thought captive, not ignoring or suppressing it is the only way through to real stillness.
In my experience I’ve found that each time I do this the next time I seek stillness it’s easier. When I don’t do this for a while, it takes work to reach stillness to capture all those roving thought. But it’s so helpful. We can learn a lot about ourselves when we seek to be still and know that God is God, and in that time listen to our own thoughts. And listening to those thoughts that ramble when everything else is still can really help in deepening our relationship with Jesus, if we’ll take a hold of them and bring them into obedience with Him.
Where are your thoughts today? Take some time, get quiet, and find out!