By Bonnie Chester, Ursuline Associate

“Be still and know that I am God.” These biblical words from Psalm 46 have become an oft-repeated phrase. I have seen it on bumper stickers, posters and even coffee mugs! When you read it, you immediately think of becoming quiet before God in prayer, don’t you? Slowing down from the busy pace of your life, maybe picking up your Bible, or in my case, grabbing my rosary. I need to find rest and peace before God and let go of my problems as I quiet myself in His presence.

An enlightening and fruitful way to enter into a meditation or reflection on a Bible verse like this one, that touches your soul, is to slowly read the phrase, and think about it, in its entirety:  “Be still and know that I am God.” I know when I contemplate these words that He is asking me to quiet myself, and believe unequivocally that He is the Supreme Being, who created me and the universe around me. My trust in Him comforts me and I feel totally protected.

If you go to your Bible, though, and start at the beginning of Psalm 46, you will find that the psalm is actually about war, that God is our “refuge and strength” (v.1), we can find protection from the raging world, “though the mountains tremble with the earth’s tumult” (v. 3). Into this chaos in v. 10, God enters the battlefield with His voice: “Be still and know that I am God.” Maybe this is the voice of God directed at His enemies engaged in the battle, not an encouragement to come rest in Him. But I rather like the latter interpretation and I will tell you how I would go in prayer with this phrase close to my heart.

Let me tell you about the technique I sometimes use to “dissect” God’s messages to me. Read the phrase and this time leave out the last word:  “Be still and know that I am.” This brings up some different thoughts, doesn’t it? In this instance, as I read the phrase, God is promising me that He will be with me. In Exodus Chapter 3, as Moses approaches the burning bush, he asks God, “The God of your ancestors has sent me to You, and they will ask what is Your name? (v. 13)  God replies, “I am who am.” (v. 14)  God is telling Moses, as He is telling me, “You, yes you, I am with you for all eternity, and you can depend on Me.”  “ I am” needs no explanation, does it?  He is there, no further words are needed!

If you continue, I would again shorten the phrase: “Be still and know.” Now, pondering those words, I could fill a whole page of my journal, what about you? If I listed all the things I know about my God and Savior, it would be endless, strengthening my faith (if we really know our God, we believe, don’t we?) It would also strengthen my hope and my love for Him and all that He created for me. Again, knowing is believing and that leads to me trusting Him that everything will be okay.

Lastly, “Be still.”  This is the gem, isn’t it, of this phrase. I think the best definition of still is to be at rest, and we know in this busy, noisy world that is nearly impossible. Jesus, in all the gospels is seen going away from the crowds and His disciples to pray in the stillness. “In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place and there he prayed.” (Mark 1:35)  One of my favorite spiritual writers, Sr. Joyce Rupp, OSU, writes:  “To deliberately go slower, to pause for a while, to be still, this isn’t a luxury for the soul. It is a necessity. If we are to live at a deeper level and be aware of what stirs within us, we must have times of stillness to recognize how the Spirit moves in our lives.”

If you find this method of “dissecting” a biblical passage worth pursuing, I have a good one for you from Colossians:  “…in him all things hold together” (1:17). Sit down with this passage, eliminating a word at a time, and see where the Lord takes you. I pray that you will find this technique helpful and bring you into a closer relationship with God.

Lord, help me to search and find these inspired passages in the scriptures, to spend time with them, word for word, and then let them strengthen my faith. Amen.