Being still isn’t something we do well in this current age. Our lives are busy and much more complicated than in previous generations. The rise of technology means we are available 24/7. We come home from work and check our personal emails/ texts/ social media accounts. Children come home from school and spend most of their time on their phones, conversing on social media with friends they have just spent the day with. There are expectations that parents will run their children to this after school club or that activity, buy them the latest gadget and clothe them in the latest fashion craze. And if they don’t then they are seen as at best ‘odd’ and at worst ‘bad parents.’ No-one wants their child to be the odd one out or become the victim of the cyber bullies. Society expects us to keep up with it.
For most people work has become a complex and fast-paced environment; there are more rules, regulations, targets to meet, hoops to jump through and the goal posts seem to be ever changing. While it might be easier than in previous generations physically, it has become a more complex and difficult environment to be in. Wages don’t go very far and making it go round so the children can have the necessities of life, which does include the latest gadget, so they aren’t penalised and victimised, providing a nice home and some of the luxuries we have come to expect, meals out, trips out, holidays, is a constant struggle. Add Covid into the loop over the past two years and it is a wonder we haven’t all gone crazy! Being still has become an impossible attainment. Being still is almost a laughable concept when we’ve been locked up with bored and fraught children, when we’ve had to try to home school children of different ages and abilities who are completely bewildered that home is now school. Parents frantically tried to keep children quiet while they worked from home. The boundaries have become blurred. Work time, school time, home time, family time, down time are all intermingled .... and yet lockdown also brought relief from the pressure of busy, frenetic lives, caught up in the whirlwind of the 21st century. It slowed us down and showed us that we don’t need to fill every waking hour with every imaginable activity. It taught us to be creative with our time, it revealed the value of friendship, family and community. It showed us that we can be still and survive.
We crave stillness more today than ever before. Programmes on TV about people who have escaped the ‘rat race’ and live alternative lives have become popular. We have seen the rise of the ‘spa hotel’ this century as a popular retreat where people try to escape the pressures and worries of modern day living, at least for a day or weekend. How do we find rest, calmness, stillness in a world which is spinning so fast and creates so many anxieties and tensions within us?
Perhaps stillness is more about searching for a place of quietness within ourselves and not necessarily to do with ‘going’ to a place of tranquillity externally. That can help, but we still have to face reality when we leave. How do we learn to be still; how do we find stillness within ourselves when all around us is chaos? It starts with knowing the Lord. He has been there before us and if we learn to trust Him in the midst of the battle, He will give us His peace; “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:14 NIV) We need to learn to be still enough to hear the Lord’s voice, whether it is through reading His word or speaking with a Christian brother or sister. We need to be quiet enough to listen and we need to be still enough to hear. Sometimes the Lord will speak to us through someone we don’t expect Him to. Moses was still enough to hear his father-in-law when he gave him sound advice about managing the people. (Exodus 18, 19-23) We need to get to know ourselves. What unsettles us, what causes anxiety within us, what worries us? If we can recognise what disturbs us and provokes disquiet and discomfort within us we can try to confront it before it robs us of our peace and stillness. Maintaining stillness is a constant battle and just when we feel we have found that place of quietness something always happens which threatens to rob us of it. Satan is always on the attack; he loves turmoil and chaos. Finding that place of stillness within us will be challenging and different for each of us. Learning to quiet our minds requires self-discipline. Turning off distractions such as the TV, computer, phone or radio may require a little self-control. Using times of enforced stillness; standing in a queue, travelling to work, waiting for a child to finish school or an activity can all be times when we practice being still. We need to learn to slow ourselves down, to recognise what we need to do now and what we can safely leave for another time or don’t need to do at all. We need to stop cluttering every minute of our waking hours with ‘doing’ and learn ‘just being’. Like everything, being still takes practice and patience. We’ll fail often, we’ll learn from each failure and that will bring us closer down the road to finding the stillness we so earnestly desire in this ever busy world. And then we might just hear God’s voice gently whispering to us ....
"Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice." 1 Kings 19:11-13 NKJV