Learning to Be Still

Be Still--person on a hamster wheel

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalm 46:10 NIV).

I doubt that I’m alone in occasionally feeling like a mouse on a wheel, running as fast as I can but getting nowhere. Much of my busyness relates to family, church, friends, and work- all meaningful activities. Nevertheless, their worth does little to diminish my mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual fatigue.

Keeping Up with Daily Demands

Be Still--To-do listThe minute I wake (and occasionally in the middle of the night), thoughts start tumbling. I make lists, categorize, and prioritize. I plan and dream. I think I have it all together. Then reality hits.

Anyone part of a large extended family can identify with the crazy ups and downs that occur at a moment’s notice. Relatives get sick, need transportation, have relationship issues, or simply want to talk. For several years my husband faced a deluge of health issues. Although significantly reduced at present, a few challenges remain. Scheduling appointments, filing and refiling insurance forms, exercising, preparing nutritious meals all come with maintaining his health. The joy of strong family ties never stops. Neither does the responsibility.

Friends and church members also need support, or they reach out to offer support. Maintaining contact, helping during crises, meeting for meals, or planning activities keep relationships strong but require a regular investment of time and energy.

During my social work years, I was on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Daily (and nightly) emergencies came with the job description. Leaving town was no guarantee of freedom from work responsibilities. Long stressful hours left little time for anything else. Add to that the kaleidoscope of individuals encountered as an adjunct professor, and the wheel spins faster and faster.

Keeping Up with Special Demands

Teaching a middle school Sunday morning Bible study involves hours of preparation and ongoing out-of-class contact. Student questions and enthusiasm require staying on top of each week’s topic as well as ever-changing social trends.

Planning for, going on, or supporting others on volunteer mission trips offers simultaneous uplift and heartbreak. It also demands a tremendous investment of time – time well spent, but another chunk of time, nonetheless.

Serving as American mom to international university students fills my heart like nothing I’ve ever done. Our home has welcomed from one to 39 students at a time, so this adventure requires cooking and parenting like I’ve never done as well. We also maintain contact with many of those students when they return home or move elsewhere. Email, snail mail, phone calls, texts, instant messages, and the ever-changing means of maintaining contact have become our norm.

Be Still--Tired dogIn spite of using several time-saving tools, some nights I fall into bed exhausted, with my mind still spinning. How will I get everything done, and when will I find time to do it all?

In order to find balance, I sometimes have to release cherished activities to someone else. Other responsibilities remain a part of God’s calling and thus a part of daily life.

What about you? Although your obligations, challenges, and stressful situations differ from mine, I venture to say you have your own version of my story. So, where does it all end? How do we balance the requirements of daily life with the individual God-given calls on our lives?

Slowing Down for the Greater Good

When futility peaks, I often realize what’s missing: time alone with God. So, I draw away from everything. I replace the world of rushing and reacting with intentional deceleration. I listen to the quiet, with God in its midst.

Be Still--Autumn streamSometimes I accomplish that at home in a quiet room or on a short walk. Other times I must get away. I love the sounds of nature, especially the flow of water, whether the ripples of a small stream or laps against a lake or ocean’s shore. However, those premium times are not always possible. A park, prayer room, or off-the-beaten-path side road serve the same purpose.

As I close my eyes and be still, the tension slowly drains. Shoulders fall, breathing slows, and muscles relax. I lose sight of the stacks of notes that demand attention. I no longer hear the phone’s rings and pings. The whirling world of obligations fade as I welcome God’s peace.

By briefly abandoning all that begs for attention and basking in God’s presence, God frequently reveals the ideas and direction I’d sought for hours on my own. And I wonder why I keep forgetting to place God first. Why do I become so intent on my plans and my purpose that I fail to give God control? When will I learn to listen, whether through God’s written word or the Holy Spirit’s gentle whisper?

From that recurring pattern grew the following prayer poem.

Be Still

No e-mail, no IM, no games.
No texting, no TV, no tweets.
No talk, no travel, no phone.
No sports, no music, no books.
No visits, no shopping, no plans.
Just stillness
and quiet
and calm.
Now I hear you, God.

Rather than asking where it all ends, why not ask where it all begins?

Close your eyes and mind to the world around you. Be still and allow God to transport you into sacred realms prepared especially for you. Perhaps then, as I continue to learn, you will be ready to face whatever challenges each day brings.

Diana Derringer

Diana Derringer is an award-winning writer and author of Beyond Bethlehem and Calvary: 12 Dramas for Christmas, Easter, and More! Her articles, devotions, dramas, planning guides, Bible studies, and poems have been accepted more than 1,200 times by 70-plus publications, including several anthologies. In addition, Diana writes radio dramas and question-and-answer television programs for Christ to the World Ministries. Her adventures as a social worker, adjunct professor, youth Sunday school teacher, friendship family for international university students, and caregiver for her husband supply a constant flow of writing ideas. For a free copy of Diana’s “Words of Hope for Days That Hurt” and her weekly Words, Wit, and Wisdom: Life Lessons from English Expressions, join her mailing list at https://dianaderringer.com.

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  1. SO relatable- like you, Diana, I need to pull away. Lucky for me- for the next five months, I can grab my coffee and walk 200 ft to the beach. Seeing that ocean helps me put everything in perspective. I realize if God controls the tides, then He can help me get done what I need to get done. I am so much more relaxed when I am reminded of that.

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