Lately, I have been seeing the words Be Still, all over social media. This is a rough season for many people, some have been laid off without pay, others have had their hours dramatically reduced and their entire routine disrupted. Fear is a very real emotion right now, and is plaguing multiple households across our country and the world. It could be very easy for us to crumble under the pressure, to sink into a depressive state as our anxiety levels soar. Trust me, I know how powerful these emotions can be, l struggle with anxiety but I have been blessed to have some amazing friends in my life. I have a group of friends, there are six of us total that are in a group text. I have lost count of how many times I have come into a difficult situation or felt discouraged and was able to send a quick text expressing how I felt only to be bombarded with sweet words of comfort, a scripture verse, heart emojis and prayers. In times like this we need a group where we can go, friends that will point us back to the truth of who our God is and sit with us and tell us everything is going to be okay. We need each of these aspects in our life. We are social creatures and need the encouragement and fellowship of the believers.
Social distancing is what we are being cautioned to do right now but that does not mean we have to be socially disconnected. I encourage you to find ways to stay connected. We have the technology to be as connected as we want to be. It’s so easy to FaceTime, text or message someone to just say hello. And let's not forget about the beauty of a hand written note, snail mail is my favorite, it is still relevant today as it was back in the Victorian era!
To be still
Roman’s 8:28 us that all things work together for good, now that does not mean that it is always good but that all things work together for good. So many people have talked about the good they have seen come out of these last few weeks. People are learning to reconnect with others, they are realizing what is really important and how precious each moment is. They are learning to trust God all over again and realizing that He is in control of it all. And we are discovering the joy of just sitting still.
As you may already know, I have an attraction to this word or phrase, but did you know that the term "Still" in the context of standing or being still, is only found about 14 times in the Bible? Nearly all are in the Old Testament and in direct connection to God or His deliverance except once? I wanted to unpack just three of these verses.
The first time this word is mentioned is in Exodus 14:13 “And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more forever”.
This is the context, the children of Israel have left Egypt, and begun their journey to the promised land. They have witnessed God’s power as He rained down the ten plagues on Egypt. They watched as the leading country in the world was brought to its knees. But just one short chapter later, they are sandwiched in a very difficult situation with the red sea before them and Pharaoh's army is behind them. Here they forget who their God is and get angry at Moses, accusing him of bringing them out here to die because there were no graves in Egypt. I have to admit, I found myself laughing a little at their response, I mean seriously, what a horrible yet hilarious accusation, you can almost hear the sarcasm! Then I thought about how often I have behaved that way, to get angry at my circumstances and blame other or worse, blame God. It is so easy to forget God’s goodness and power in the middle of a storm. When things get difficult and we feel as if we have nowhere to go, we tend to lash out.
But I love what Moses says to his forgetful and angry mob.
The second passage I want to highlight is Ruth 3:18. It is pretty much a given that if I write about the topic of being still, this verse is going to be in the list.
This verse says, Then said she, Sit still, my daughter, until thou know how the matter will fall: for the man will not be in rest, until he have finished the thing this day.
This verse is actually unique, it is in a class all by itself because the context is Naomi speaking to her daughter in law Ruth about Boaz. Ruth has just shared the results of her late night meeting with Boaz where she asked him to marry her but found out that there was someone else who was in line before him. The women had not planned for this to happen at all, now Ruth could end up with a total stranger who didn’t care about her at all. We have all been in a similar situation at one point or another. We had plans, good plans but some unforeseen obstacle has gotten in the way. Right now there have been many heartbroken brides who had to completely rethink how their wedding, a wedding many spent a year preparing for and others have had to cancel trips or even family reunions. This is a difficult and disappointing time for many. Instead of getting upset or anxious maybe we should simply stop, pray and be still allowing God to work.
There is another little angle I want to bring up with this verse and that is, sometimes we have to let someone else go speak for us. Most of us are people of action, we want to stand up and fight for what is right, to speak for ourselves but what if that is not the plan? What if God wants us to simply stand still? Have you ever been wronged and wanted to march right up to the person doing the accusing and fix the problem? I have witnessed people who knew they were right but instead of charging ahead to fix the problem themselves they prayed about it. So often I saw God move by either having someone else come forward and rectify the problem or God intervening on their behalf. This is the second lesson I would like for you to take away. Sometimes plans, even good ones, don’t go the way we intended them to and that is okay because it is an opportunity for us to strengthen our faith in the Lord and build our trust in His goodness. And the second half of this second lesson is the fact that there will arise situations where instead of trying to right a wrong done to us, we need to simply sit still, bring it before the Lord and let Him settle the matter.
All right the last verse I want to talk about is the well known scripture from Psalm 46:10
Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.
This verse is currently being quoted and pictured in a lot of social media posts, and it is being emphasized by many influencer to remind their followers of this truth. In times where fear runs rampant it is essential for the believer to run to God, He alone is the antidote to the world’s fear. While our world seems to be in utter chaos our God is a sure foundation that we can rest upon but we have to do something first, we must be still. To be still has the idea of getting away from all the noise, all the distractions, to cease what we are doing and quiet the very thoughts in our mind so that we can hear the still small voice of our God and we can hear Him best in the quiet place. It is in these moments that we discover who God is. He is our provider, protector, conqueror, deliverer, our place of refuge, our friend and our Father. Many of us have some extra time on our hands due to multiple activities being cancelled and places being temporarily closed. Perhaps before getting to that long list of items on your to do list, you can spend a few extra moments with God, digging deep into His Word away from your phone, away from the TV and let yourself be still in His presence. This is the final lesson and I believe the most important because all of the others are built from here. This is the foundational truth because we cannot look to the Lord for our help if we first don’t know He is our help and we cannot trust in someone we don’t know very well. Getting alone with God, and letting Him speak to you is the most important part of your day and the most important ingredient to growing your faith. May we all take the necessary time to stand still, to sit still and be still so that we may know that He is God.
Did you know that last Friday was national day of unplugging. Wait? What? Yup there is actually such a thing as national unplugging. It is a 24 hour window where individuals pledge to unplug from their devices in order to reconnect with others.
I know for a fact that we miss out on so much simply because we are consumed with technology. We spend countless hours scrolling through social media instead of spending those minutes with those around us.
I am so guilty of this, it is almost an addiction. We just have to see what the latest on Facebook or watch the newest story on Instagram but what about the lives of those around us. We spend so much time reading about our online friends but are missing out on the lives God has placed before us.
The Joneses Unplugged
I watched a movie once and it was so powerful that I never forgot it. It was entitled, the Joneses unplugged, and introduced us to a young, married couple named Matthew and Rebecca who have lost their connection to each other because of their attachment to technology. It isn’t until a power outage and dead phones, that they begin to realize just how serious of a problem this has become. As they sit in their candle lit living room apartment (semi-romantic) eating ice cream, the only thing available, they discover how little they know about each other when one tells the other that they better appreciate the fact that they are sharing their favorite ice cream with them...mint chocolate chip. To which the other replies that the mint was their favorite. They learn that the cherry flavored ice cream each thought the other liked was disliked by both. Rebecca realizes that something has to change and proposes that whenever they are home they set their phones and other technology aside so that they can focus on what is important, each other. This is the start of their adventure into non-wifi territory and will set off a series of events that are memorable and life changing. You see, because they are not glued to their phones they suddenly have more time to do other things, like take a bike ride through their neighborhood where they promptly get lost and end up asking for directions from a kind, elderly gentleman which turns into a special friendship. I will say that this was a well done film that taught an incredible lesson, people are more important than technology.
Can we just park the car right here and unpack this truth a little more? I will be the first to admit that I spend way too much time with my devices. Too much wasted time that I could be doing something else with, like investing it in something more meaningful, people.
I understand that technology is a part of our culture, if you are like me you use it at work but what about when we come home? Are we still glued to our devices, checking the latest news about our friends? What about when we are out and about? Are we still on our phones trying to stay connected to those who are online instead of those who are around us right now? How often have we missed an opportunity to talk with someone God has planted in front of us or missed the signs all together that someone had a need to share a burden. I sometimes am guilty of hiding behind my phone to avoid talking to others because I am a little shy in big crowds where I don’t know anyone. But what if God has someone He wanted me to meet and I completely blew it?
I am by no means condemning anyone for their technology usage, I just want us to consider how much we are letting it guide our day instead of the Lord. When the Joneses decided to unplug, they were able to connect with not only each other but with those around them. They actually did a game night with friends, with actually board games and delicious popcorn. They signed up to do a cooking class together since they didn’t know how to cook and they met an elderly man who was lonely since his wife had passed away. Suddenly their life was much more meaningful because of the investment they were making.
Interaction over technology
I remember when I lived in Germany for a bit, my parents were stationed there with the Army and we lived in an apartment, 3rd floor, lots of steps...the laundry room was in the basement, let's just say we dreaded laundry day! On the plus side there was a huge playground located in the back of the apartments and it was amazing, we had a big wooden fort where we kids played for hours. We also had limited TV channels in English which caused us to do more family activities like playing games and doing puzzles. I remember so many hours spent around our big dining room table sorting puzzle pieces, we always did the 1000 piece ones (my personal favorite). I loved those times because they created memories where we were all together interacting, laughing and talking about our day. Technology is seeking to replace that, I see it everywhere I go, cars with DVD players, children sitting in grocery baskets watching videos on their parents phone or families sitting at a restaurant glued to their own devices barely taking notice of each other (why bother going out at all!).
This was not the world I grew up in. I remember when we got a phone bench, that's right a phone bench, so that my mom could sit comfortably next to the phone because of the short cord, then we finally upgraded to a cordless phone, let me tell you, those things were huge, and heavy but hey, we could finally sit on our couch and talk! Such progress!! Then came the unlimited phone plans where you could talk after 7 pm for as long as you like (let's just say that my mom took full advantage of that!). Cell phones didn’t come into my house until I was around 14 and I didn’t make my first call on one until I was 15, can you imagine!! My parents finally bought me my own when I was 16 but it was only for emergencies and no texting.
Those were the days when children ran outside after church to play with their friends, now I see many of them gathered in a circle watching their phones, and the art of communication is lost to many of the younger generation. I would say that they don’t even know how to hold a conversation because the adults don’t teach them and that is because they are too busy in their own circle of technology.
That’s why I think having a day of unplugging is a great idea, and not just one day a year. What if we chose to set aside one day a week where we unplugged. Now I know some of us have work related things that need to be attended to, but what if we did our best to limit it as much as possible for that day?
There is a funny cartoon I saw once that read, "the power went out for two hours, I had to talk to the people I live with, they seemed nice". While we may laugh at this, it is a little sad because it is so true. What would we discover about those around us if we took the time to unplug? What memories would we make if we chose to spend time with our family and friends instead of on our phone?
There is an old saying that goes, “you can’t take it with you” but is that really true? I would say no, there is one thing we will take with us when we die and that is the people we have reached for Jesus. Christ spent His ministry investing in people because they are the only ones that have eternal value. Our time spent on social media will not matter much in the end but the time we give to each other can make an eternal difference. We are social beings and need the presence of others. Did you know that there is an epidemic of loneliness that is sweeping across the nation? There was a study done a couple of years ago that was published by a global health company and they found that 46 % of U.S adults report sometimes or always feeling lonely and 47 % report feeling left out. Here is something else that is interesting, only around half of Americans say they have meaningful in-person social interactions on a daily basis, such as having an extended conversation with a friend or spending time with family members. Now I don’t know about you but I find that so sad especially because I see it so often. Even families have lost the ability to connect within themselves. You can read the whole article here.
What is ministry?
Loneliness is defined as a feeling of being alone or lacking social connectedness, and I am afraid the church is not exempt from this. Our churches are filled with people who are lonely, they are in need of a friend but so often we are too busy with other things. When did we lose sight of what is important, of what is eternal?
I know that I am getting ready to tread on some thin ice but please bear with me. Ministry is a good thing, our churches are filled with some great ministry opportunities but what are we sacrificing in order to do it? Do we rush off to do this or that and forget about what is really important?
Can we just go down a quick rabbit trail, I promise to catch the rabbit! How would you define ministry? Is it limited to just inside the church or does it extend beyond those walls? I would venture to say that it is mostly beyond the walls of our churches. Christ’s ministry was people, He sought out individuals who needed Him. He spent an evening with Nicodemus talking to Him about what it truly means to be born again, He went through Samaria because there was a woman at the well that needed to hear about the living water, and there was a evening spent dining with Zacheous, a man who needed to realize how he could come clean. And then there was Mary Magdeline, who was grieving over the lost body of her Lord. Jesus paused His ascension to His Father to see Mary.
“Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father; but go to my bretheren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God and your God. John 20:17
He took the time to see a distraught woman and tell her that all was well and to go tell the others. I think this sums up ministry very well, it is not about how many we serve or the great things we may accomplish, it is measured by the individual. We are called to reach one at a time, to take the time to notice the one. We should be able to see the needs of those around us, but often we get so wrapped up with the activity of the ministry that we forget the focus of the ministry.
The focus of ministry
God has given each of us a ministry and it is found in those that He has placed directly in our path, but how often have we missed that because our focus was somewhere else? I am not trying to make anyone feel guilty, my desire is to make us consider what truly is important, I believe that ministries have their place and are accomplishing much good but may we not forget to make time for the things that matter. Ministry is not more important than people but when we put it before those that God has placed in our lives this is exactly what we are saying.
When was the last time you set aside time to spend with your family, to do something where you all interacted, like a family game night? Maybe we are losing our young people to technology because we have become distracted with it ourselves? People should always be our number one priority, they are the ones we are called to make a difference in their lives. Christ told His disciples, By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples if ye have love for one another. Love is action, it involves time spent with someone else, it means seeking someone out and talking to them. I love receiving a surprise call from a friend, that hour spent on the phone means more to me than any text could.
Maybe it is time for us to look around us, and take notice of the needs of others, to ask the Lord who do you want me to help today. Perhaps it is taking someone out for a coffee so you can just talk, purposing to keep your phone off the table or gathering some friends for a fun activity like bowling and doing it with the rule that no one can use their phone during the activity (unless it is for taking a picture). What about sending a handwritten note to a long-distance friend telling them how much we care about them and that we are praying for them.
We are told to provoke one another to good works, and encourag fellow believers in the faith. I believe this requires us to be present and aware of who we can reach out to and help. I promise that this will create lasting memories that will feed their soul and yours.
Are you willing to unplug?
Are we willing to do what the Joneses did and unplug from what really has no eternal value so that we can focus on what does? Children are like sponges, they absorb what is around them and if they see people buried deep into technology can we expect them to do anything different. What do you say? Are you willing to exchange some tech time for people time? Check out this amazing article called "50 things to do as a family without technology", there are some pretty good ideas listed, check it out. And these are not limited to just our family, we can easily do some of these things with a group of friends, here are some of my favorite:
The possibilities are endless and the memories priceless. People are the only ones created in the image of God and given an eternal soul. They alone are with the investment of time. We only have a limited amount of time given to us, may we choose to spend it with what has an eternal value.
We only have one life to live, one chance to show a world that is hurting that we care, and introduce them to the One that loves them beyond measure.
We make a living by what we get but we make a life by what we give. - Winston Churchill
Can I encourage you to give the gift of time?
I am just an ordinary girl who is loved by an extraordinary God and I seek to love others the same way. I love to bake, read, do puzzles, watch Hallmark movies, and go shopping with my mom! This blog was created as a place where I could share some thoughts that the Lord has shown me and to be an encouragement to others who desire to know Him in a deeper way. My prayer is to learn to sit still and trust God with my future.
Love Jane Austen? Looking for a unique gift for those special people in your life? Visit Return to Innocence Era and take a step back in time when the simple things were still valued.