Be Still: An Invitation to Confidence in a Time of Chaos.

This is a transcript of an audio devotional from The Table Community Church in Belgrade, MT. You can listen to this devotional here.

Take a minute to read Psalm 46.

When was the last time you sensed a peaceful confidence that everything will be okay?

Take a moment to really reflect on that question as you recall the last twenty-four hours; or the last week; or the last month; or the last year. Is there a place in your heart and soul that says, “…it will be okay?”

The words surfacing across our screens say “pandemic” and “panic,” two things that create angst and only reproduce themselves when they become the primary object of our attention. People who panic tend to only create more panic. Perhaps panic is just as contagious as the virus we seek to avoid. Our confidence is, as we will see, is misplaced, and misplaced confidence only created more inner chaos.

Psalm 46 might have something worth saying to our panicked and anxious souls.

This Psalm comes from the Sons of Korah, a group of passionate and loud worshipers of the LORD.[2] They long to see God step into their reality, which in this case is one of turmoil and trouble.[3] While in the midst of struggle, they shout a refrain twice in this song: “The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” This tells us that this song is about confidence in God while living in chaos. A timely and meaningful song that we can hear and sing.

As we listen to this song, we hear about the disturbed and deteriorating state of the world, raging rivers and melting mountains. Walter Brueggemann writes, “The thought of those mountains tottering suggests that the earth is about to collapse and the sky about to fall. Chaos is seeking to reassert itself and destroy the order of creation.”[4] Yet the song opens with reminding the listener that God is an “ever-present help in trouble.”

Do you feel like you see or sense chaos as you watch the news, scroll the social media feed, or even just stepping into your local grocery store? Like the world seems to be caving in around you? How are you responding in such a situation?

To you, the Sons Korah shout loudly, “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God!” For these people, the “city of God” is Jerusalem. Yet it is also beyond Jerusalem, as it extends to all those under the lordship of God. Scholar Robert Davidson beautifully notes, “To identify this city of God with any place on the map, even Jerusalem, or any human institution, including any religious institution, is to court misunderstanding and ultimate disaster. Such an identification would convey the God who ‘is with us’ into the God who is on our side, who exists to prop up our human power structures. The ‘city of God’ stands over against all such earthly power as a rock in the midst the shifting sands of human history.”[5]

For us today, this city is the Spirit’s presence within those who follow Jesus, the one who gives the drink of joy, peace, and refreshment.[6] Yes, there is a river that gives life to a city that won’t come crashing down, even if everything else appears to be; or as the Psalm proclaims with assurance, “She. Will. Not. Fall.” How can we be sure that we won’t be undone?

To you, the Sons of Korah shout loudly, “Come and see what the LORD has done!” When we turn our gaze from the chaos and towards the creator, what do we “see?” That he has left his enemies (everything that conspires against his good creation) in “desolation.” The imagery of God breaking the bow, spear, and shield are meant to convey that God is fighting for us.

When I was little, my older brother once stood up for me because someone much older and bigger than me thought I made an easy target. There was literally no way I could have fought back and won. It took my brother, who carried a sense authority, power, and ability that I did not in order to calm the situation. As he stepped in, I could step back and in stepping back, I grew in confidence that it would be okay.

What if we are not supposed to fight our way through pandemics? What if the wisdom of God has pushed his creation into a place of pause? What if we are to simply step back for a moment and consider the work and power of God?

To you, God says, “Be still and know that I am God!” Stillness in Psalm 46 should not be equated with spiritual piety or meditation but rather it is about stepping back and letting go of control because you have realized that you never actually had it in the first place. It is more accurately a rebuke against what keeps us from assurance that everything will be okay. The idea of the Hebrew phrase for “be still” is “Let be [quiet] then…”[7] It is a shout that reflects Jesus’s rebuke to the storm: “Peace! Be Still!”[8] So actually, God is shouting “be still” not simply at you but to the storm inside and aroundyou. The two cannot be so disconnected, me and my situation, yet the direction of “Be Still” is towards what conspires against our confidence in God.

A word of caution, this does not mean that our physical situation will improve, but rather that our spiritual condition can be made whole and strong even when our bodies are weak and withering like the world around us. In fact, the measure of confidence often comes when we, like the Sons of Korah, can shout praise in the midst of struggle.

So, in light of the pandemic and problems we face, the invitation to “Come and see…” is actually an invitation to “be still and know” in a culture that feeds on activity and information overload, both of which conspire against our confidence in the LORD.

To be still is more about confidence than calmness because when I am confident, then I can find calmness and assurance in chaotic and unsure times.

So how do we step back and watch God work?

A few of things come to mind…

First, I would encourage you write down everything you fear about what is going on in your life, from the common struggles to the Coronavirus. Identify the fear.

Second, read Psalm 46 at least two times and write down what you are hearing from God or what is resonating with you as you read.

Lastly, call, email, text, or talk with someone about how God is bringing confidence in the midst of chaos. Sit down with your family and talk about making sense of fear and faith as we take this situation day-by-day.

I hope this has been meaningful for you.

[1] The New International Version. (2011). (Ps 46:1–11). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[2] 2 Chronicles 20:19: Then some Levites from the Kohathites and Korahites stood up and praised the LORD, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice.

[3] Tremper Longman III, Psalms: An Introduction and Commentary, (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 2014), 204.

[4] Walter Brueggemann & William H. Bellinger, Jr., Psalms: NCBC, (New York: Cambridge Press, 2014), 217.

[5] Robert Davidson, The Vitality of Worship: A Commentary on the Book of Psalms, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 153.

[6] John 7:37–39: “On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”9 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.”

[7] Davidson, The Vitality of Worship, 153.

[8] Derek Kinder, Psalms 1–72, (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1973), 194.

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Husband to Christie. Father to Cove and Maggie. Teaching Pastor for The Table. Commenting on theology, culture, biblical studies, the Church, and life.

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Cody Whittington

Husband to Christie. Father to Cove and Maggie. Teaching Pastor for The Table. Commenting on theology, culture, biblical studies, the Church, and life.