“Don’t just stand there, do something!” This well intended advice is often driven by the unspoken assumption that stillness is laziness and, therefore, ineffective at best or dangerous at worst. The problem isn’t so much with this counsel (sometimes, activity is needed!) but with the attempt to import it into our relationship with God. If we desire a stronger faith, we must learn to think differently about stillness.
In our modern culture of high tech tools, global transportation, and instant information, it can be difficult to envision the productivity of stillness. In virtually every domain of life, success depends on speed of delivery. Yet, when it comes to the health of our souls and the vibrancy of our faith, we must revisit our biases against stillness because Scripture paints a very different picture. We shall see that stillness uncovers the paradox, less is more.
As early as Genesis 2:2—day seven of the creation narrative—Sabbath is already incorporated as a foundational Old Testament theme. Subsequently, Sabbath obedience (a ceasing from work in order to trust God as one’s ultimate provision) became a cornerstone of Israeli life and a powerful means of its blessing (Lev. 26:1-13; Isa. 58:13-14). In preparation for key events, Jesus often sought quiet and still places to be alone with God and pray (Mark 1:35); he later even declared himself, Lord of the Sabbath (Matt. 12:8). Hence, the New Testament identifies Sabbath rest with God’s unmerited favor that comes by faith in Christ Jesus (Heb. 4:9-15). So, from Genesis to Revelation, we see “the productivity of stillness” as a theme identified with Sabbath obedience.
Ultimately, the purpose of Sabbath stillness has always been to nurture faith and strengthen one’s love relationship with God. Jesus says the same when he sums up all of God’s commands as essentially the call to love him more than anything else. This was a central message of Christ’s ministry and a fundamental New Testament theme. God actually offers us the invitation to walk in a real relationship with him marked by genuine love and trust. It is through stillness that the Holy Spirit creates space for our faith to grow and our relationship with Christ to flourish.
In stillness we step away from the superficial distractions of this world to deliberately interact with God in a personal way. When we do, loving him soon becomes the driving purpose of our life. Everything else begins to serve this singular end. And so, by means of frequent visits to the place of stillness we finally learn how to live. Next week we talk about how quickly we can lose the blessings of stillness if we are not diligent to regularly practice this discipline.
What Do You Think?
Have you ever practiced stillness as a means to grow closer to God? Was it helpful? Why or why not?
♦ To see the video and poem this post is based on, click here.