Yesterday we spoke of the benefits of giving thanks in order to slow ourselves down so that we can enjoy each moment and commune with the Lord and hear His voice. The ‘thanksgiving’ that slows us down and enables us to appreciate the things that are all around us, to savour the things that our five senses make us aware of. Today I want to think about how thanksgiving can also help us to take time, and to ‘pause’, when things are particularly tough or difficult and far from enjoyable. Quite the opposite in fact, when our five senses are working for us to alert us to challenging or disturbing things all around us, and we are observing the kind of things that can cause us stress and distress.
I think this may be what the writer of Psalm 46 was discovering, for as we read through the psalm it is clear that some fairly cataclysmic things were going on. He could have been describing an earthquake or a volcano; whatever was taking place sounds pretty terrifying. He then adds to that the report that, ‘the nations are in uproar and kingdoms fall’, and finally tops it by describing God’s judgements falling too. In the light of all that physical, political/military and spiritual disaster, what he writes in the next two verses is quite staggering.
In the midst of all the chaos, terror and confusion, he hears God say “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. The psalmist had threat and pandemonium all around him, and was told by God to take a moment to pause, to ‘be still’, and as he did that it enabled him to hear the voice of the Lord. While we are not told everything that he heard, it must have been good for he declares, I imagine with much excitement, “The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress”. What a relief!!
In a moment when the normal reaction would have been ‘fight’ or ‘flight’, God told Him to ‘Be still’ and, this is the key, ‘know that I am God’. I always think it may have come across to him in this way. ‘Be still and know that the I AM is your God’. As he paused, as he was still, it gave his spirit time to reconnect with His God, the Almighty, the All Sufficient One, the Ever Present one. I think it gave him the space for his spirit to speak louder than the signals he was getting through his five senses. It gave God a chance to whisper into his heart the truth about who God was going to be for him in that situation.
It sounds as if this revelation might have come to him in a similar manner to the voice that Elijah heard in his cave, after fleeing in terror from Jezebel, 1 Kings 19:12. Elijah, I’m surmising, had a good deal of turmoil within his head and heart, He heard something very quiet, translated variously as, ‘a gentle whisper’ or a ‘still small voice’, a ‘gentle blowing’. The truth is that sometimes you’ve just got to be quiet to hear that kind of communication. We need that internal stillness before we can hear what the Lord is saying to us especially when our senses are overloaded with alarming noises coming to us from the world around.
Elijah not only heard directions from the Lord telling him what he needed to do next, but he also heard the encouraging news that there were still seven thousand left in Israel who hadn’t bowed down to Baal. We don’t actually know whether either the psalmist or Elijah calmed or stilled themselves by turning in their hearts to thank God that He was with them and for them, but we know that we can do just that. Stopping to thank the Lord, in the moment of challenge or crisis, can help our spirit to rise above the noise around and help us to hear what the Lord is wanting to say to us.
So whether we are looking to find some rest, relaxation and refreshment in the presence of the Lord, like we were describing yesterday, or are finding ourselves in difficult and challenging situations and needing His help, turning to the Lord in thanksgiving can slow us down and quieten our hearts so that we can ‘hear’ God and meet with Him. I believe that as we do this we will find His peace invading our hearts.