The Value of Being Still

Blue Heron on Lake Norman

One foggy morning, I was greeted by a great blue heron standing completely still on my neighbor’s dock. It’s a posture this majestic bird adopts when searching for fish. The one captured in the photo doesn’t seem to be fishing but simply taking in all the surroundings and trying to discern what’s beyond the fog. Maybe we can learn a lesson from the heron.

In the Psalms, the Lord says, “Be still and know that I am God.” (PS 46:10)  This psalm first recounts a long list of calamities like volcanoes, earthquakes, and tidal waves, and then bemoans the dire political climate: “Nations are in uproar.”  

How did the Lord respond? With eight simple words that all can live by: “Be still and know that I am God.”  

Stillness helps us see the troubles around us through God’s eyes. Stillness overlays our present trials with an eternal perspective. Stillness reminds us of God’s presence in our lives and invites us to join the psalmist to “come and see the works of the Lord.” (46:9)

Stillness also helps us see things that others might not see. There is a telling phrase in Luke’s gospel of Jesus healing a blind man (Luke 18:35-43). The scene began with a raucous crowd traveling through Jericho. Above all the noise, a blind man cried out for mercy. Those in front rebuked him. Yet among all this chaos, Jesus did something contrary. It says, “Jesus stood still.” (NRSV, 8:40) It’s as if Jesus tuned out everything else and made the cry for mercy the center of his attention. In this stillness, he penetrated the noise and entered the world of the blind man, sensing not only his blindness but his deeper longing for healing and wholeness. 

He asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” (Lk 18:41a) The man answered, “Let me see again,” and regained his sight. From stillness, we provide a space to hear the same question from the Lord: What do you want me to do for you? And in the stillness ponder how we would respond.

This miraculous healing began with Jesus stepping outside the chaos and heading the words of the psalm, “Be still, and know that I am God.”  

Find a moment to still your mind, body, and heart. Like the heron, the stillness may allow you to see beyond the fog surrounding your life, hear the cry of someone who needs your help, or thoughtfully answer the Lord’s question, “What do you want me to do for you?