Scripture Reading: Psalm 62:1-12, Isaiah 61:1-3, Luke 8:22-25, James 5:7-8
My soul is not good at being still.
This morning, I took a book and a cup of coffee to the front porch, and in just a few moments, I was distracted. My phone called to me, trapping me in the never-ending deluge of other people’s happy photos. I wondered about what I’d make for dinner. A calendar alert reminded me of an appointment I’d forgotten. And then time ran out. My moments of solace were gone because I’d given them away to lesser things.
It is hard to guard stillness because I live in a world that drives me to move faster, do more, and document my achievement. The word “hustle” is everywhere. There’s a constant sense that if I don’t make something of myself, nothing will ever come of my life. I know that it is a lie, but it continues to trap me anyway. In my best moments, I am exhausted. In my worst, I am detached from my soul in a way that is nearly dissociative. How can I know my own heart when I spend so little time with it?
It is hard to guard stillness because being still allows the emotions I’d rather ignore to rise to the surface— emotions like pain, sorrow, and loss. Fears arise about of the futility of life, how little I’ve truly accomplished, and how frequently I let my friends and myself down. When I’m quiet, my questions for God get very loud.
Are You there, God?
Do You see me?
Do You know how I’m hurting?
Do You truly love me?
My heart is not always a happy place. Stillness requires me to face my own grief that life isn’t really all it’s cracked up to be.
In Megan Devine’s beautiful book, It’s OK that You’re Not OK, she writes, “Grief is simply love in its most wild and painful form. It is a natural and sane response to loss.” In the same way, I should not be surprised by the longings, desires, and heartache that surface when I sit in stillness. My heart was designed for something other than this world I live in. The pain and sorrow surrounding me is foreign—it’s no wonder I’m homesick for a place I’ve never been before.
The hymn “Be Still My Soul” is a song of longing for how things will be, but aren’t yet. There are no silver linings in this song, only the promise of God’s abiding comfort in the midst of my sadness, the promise that He will ultimately dry every tear from my eyes.
I love that this hymn was written and is sung in a minor key, because this life is not a tune of happy hallelujahs. No—it is a thorny way that leads to a joyful end. But I’m not at that joyful end—not yet. And no amount of my effort can produce what only God can accomplish. Only in stillness can I feel His presence. Only in honestly uncovering my deepest wounds can I receive His soothing care.
The hour is hastening on when I will be forever with the Lord. Until then, let me guard time for stillness—my soul is desperate for it. Until then, may my soul find rest in God’s presence. “He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I will never be shaken” (Psalm 62:1–2).
Be Still, My Soul
Original Text: Katrina von Schlegel, 1752
Translation: Jane Borthwick, 1855
Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
in ev’ry change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heav’nly Friend
through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
to guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
all now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice, Who ruled them while He dwelt below.
Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
and all is darkened in the veil of tears,
then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.
Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay
from His own fullness all He takes away.
Be still, my soul: the hour is hast’ning on
when we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past,
all safe and blessed we shall meet at last.
Claire Gibson is a writer whose work has been featured in publications including The Washington Post and Entrepreneur Magazine among many others. An Army kid who grew up at West Point, New York, Claire is currently growing roots in Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband, Patrick, their son, Sam, and their dog, Winnie. Her debut novel, Beyond the Point, will be published next year.