Do not be afraid. Stand still and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today…you need only to be still. (Exodus 14: 13-14)
Sometimes the most important thing we can do is nothing, absolutely nothing. Sometimes it is not our activity that brings a desired result, but our inactivity, our complete rest. It is a fundamental truth for all kinds of things. It is a fundamental of exercise: exercise exhausts and tears muscle tissue down; it is on the days when the muscles are allowed to rest that they recover and build themselves back up. It’s the same with gardening; we plant and water, and then leave things alone to grow in their own time. There is a larger principle here.
Regardless of what we're trying to achieve, knowing how and when to stop and leave things alone is every bit as important as knowing how and when to act; it may be the most important part of an activity or undertaking. It may be that we fail more often from frenetic, unfocused, or unwise activity than from other causes. And, what is true for tasks, is often true for relationships: we often try too hard to make things happen (or keep them from happening) when it would be wiser to let things be. After all, how much effect do we really have on other people’s behavior or attitudes? And is it always good or helpful, even when we mean it to be? Why do we work so hard to assert ourselves and have our ways when it seldom makes us (or anyone else around us) happy?
In matters of rest, as in all other matters of life, Jesus is our model. It is amazing in the gospels how much time Jesus spent doing absolutely nothing! He could sit silently watching people put their contributions into the temple coffers. He could ride in a boat for hours at a time, alone with his disciples, out on the lake, watching the wind, the waves, and the sky. He would take large chunks of time to be alone in prayer (what has been called learning to “waste time gracefully with God”). He knew when to act and when to rest, when to speak and when to leave well enough alone. Unlike most of us, he could let go of a thing or relationship and allow it time to develop. He could push for a decision, but he could also let someone go off and ponder a point. Unlike most of us, his every action came out of a quiet, undivided center. He acted and spoke with a purpose. And when there was no purpose or point, he remained silent and still.
Often we act or speak because we don’t know what else to do. We feel that we simply must do or say something, even when it would be better to be quiet and do nothing. Our activity often is a function of our anxieties and gives us the illusion of influence and control when it would be better to be still and know that God is at work, that God is in control, that we are in the hands of God.
Find time to rest and be quiet, and still. Sometimes, in order to get things done, to get along in relationships, or simply to grow yourself, you need to let go of doing and merely be. Be still and know. So make time for rest and reflection. Put yourself in God's presence and do absolutely, positively nothing. Let him be God. Let him be Lord of your life, your relationships, and of your time. It may be the wisest thing you actually do.
Soli Deo Gloria!
Rev. Don Muncie