Last week, I stubbed my big toe on a dining room chair. It hurt, but I didn’t think much of it…until the next morning. At 4:30 a.m. a throbbing in my foot woke me up. My toe was swollen, red, and tender to the touch. Walking on it was painful.
I’m stubborn, so I went to work anyway. But I spent most of the day sitting. It was a busy day, and I felt bad about not being on top of my game, but every time I tried to get up and hobble around to do something, my co-teacher commanded directed me back to a chair. After one such exchange, I caught myself looking at the bookcase and filing cabinet that were within reach. I stopped, looked at my co-teacher and said, “I am looking for something to do. I can’t just sit still. Obviously, I need to work on this.”
Being still is hard.
Frustration overtook me quickly. I don’t do “still” well.
But sometimes, that’s what we have to be—more often than we would like to admit, I’m sure.
I was reminded of Exodus 14:14:
The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.
At this point in scripture, the Israelites were trapped: “The Egyptians—all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots, horsemen and troops—pursued the Israelites and overtook them as they camped by the sea…” (Ex. 14:9). There was nowhere for them to go, nothing for them to do to save themselves from imminent capture and death. And we see in Exodus 14:10 that they were “terrified” and desperate, asking Moses, “What have you done by bringing us out of Egypt…It would have been better for us to serve in Egypt than to die in the desert.” They wanted a plan of action; they wanted answers.
But Moses asked them to be still, to stand firm and wait for the Lord’s deliverance.
Being still doesn’t mean “do nothing.” Far from it. When the enemy shows up on our doorstep, ready to overtake us, we can act. The type of action we take is what matters. The spirit in which we take action matters.
When we’re faced with hardship, the Lord asks us to be still and allow Him to fight the battle for us. When we abide in His strength, we are equipped to stand our ground when the enemy knocks at our gate. When we rest in His peace, we are less likely to turn and run from the fight. Instead, we can face it with His strength.
Sometimes there’s no amount of doing that will result in a solution. Sometimes (most of the time), I have no control over outcomes. Often, I just have to sit still and wait. And I don’t like it. Did I mention that I don’t like to sit still? I’m a compulsive fixer/doer. There’s a problem? I’m determined to find a solution. But sometimes I can’t. Sometimes I have to be still and wait for the Lord’s deliverance.
While my foot was out of commission last week, I could still check papers, explain concepts to students, send emails, troubleshoot technology issues, and even teach from my seated position. But I also had to relinquish my frustration with not being able to do everything I normally do in the classroom. I had to get over the guilt of putting more tasks on my co-teacher. I had to be willing to ask for help, willing to let others serve me.
And when life gets rocky—for me or for my people, near and far–there are a few things I can always do.
I can pray.
I can speak light and truth.
I can be present.
I can be still.
I can still be.
How do you practice being still in the midst of the storm?