“Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”
(John 14:27b) Life can be chaotic and feel out of control. As a result, some of us seem destined to go through life in a state of anxiety, agitation, or alarm, while more fortunate souls find the path to calm and contentment. Medical records attest to the former mode gaining dominance in our times. Stress, and its related physical maladies, plagues far too many in Western society.
Yet as I’ve noticed, many de-stressing techniques are mere
distracters. They shift our focus for a time but do little to transform our stressful states. Still Life is based on actual transformation. Its ability to produce change from the inside out is authentic. It’s knowing where to get help with our problems and disturbances — the stuff of daily life.
Psalm 23 is a place to start. It’s familiar to many, believers or not, and shifts our gaze to consider another reality: an eternal one. “The Lord is my shepherd.” That’s an arresting statement. Is He? How do we know?
Look closer at what He does for us and see if this has happened to you. “He makes me lie down in green pastures…leads me beside quiet waters…restores my soul…” If it has, you’ve been given a sample of Still Life (vv. 1-3).
Later in this passage, David tells of a stressful time but is accompanied by the Lord. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for Thou art with me.” Like us, sometimes, David was faced with enemies, but God’s comfort and holy presence make him feel safe. David was in that place on purpose: God’s purpose (vv. 4-5).
If we have that sense of being led, guided, and provided for, we can endure. The future, as well as the present, is secure. We can choose where we “dwell” (v.6).
Still Life is a habit, a cultivated response based in our spiritual make-up. It’s a snatch of grace amid the constant bombardment of living with what rattles us and challenges our desire for well-being. Still means both rest, quiet calm, serenity, and soothing, as well as endurance. It’s how we last.
Instead of bolting or zoning, we wait in patient confidence. Stillness is undisturbed, not unlike the eye of a storm. Its deep pool a reservoir of reserve. It’s not dependent on outside influences, but more on what we allow to matter in the present. Stillness happens in the present.
When events swirl around us, how do we keep from falling prey to emotional and spiritual vertigo? Like ballet dancers who master the pirouette, we find our fixed spot, our place of reference. When we do, the motion isn’t relevant. We are stable and assured.
Those who haven’t discovered this foundation keep riding the waves of worry or woundedness. They hide or escape when they sense another nauseating taste of overwhelm. Frustrated, they blame their circumstances, or beat the air in anger or fear. Endurance becomes a pipe dream.
The pages of Scripture are full of examples of those who last, and those who can’t–ones who trust and others who panic. Mere human beings subject to our same weaknesses, yet, “by faith,” lived out invisible realities that supported and sustained them like bedrock.
“And what more can I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon…Samson…David and Samuel and the prophets, who, through faith, conquered kingdoms, administered justice…shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames…whose weakness was turned to strength…” (Hebrews 11:32-34 NIV).
Still Life is a longing in our hearts, an ache that doesn’t go away. It’s “losing our lives to save them” (Matthew 10:39). It’s forgiveness undeserved, courage in the face of fear, humility that dismisses boastful pride.
It knows no bounds, because nothing can defeat it. It’s a life
transformed and empowered to live against the undertow. It buoys us when we surrender to it and reassures us of the future when we can’t see it yet.
Stress and turmoil happen. We know it, but we don’t have to be their victims. The answer is as ancient as the Ancient-of-Days. It’s no secret. And it still works.
As David says, “I shall not be in want…my cup overflows” because the Shepherd’s goodness, comfort, and mercy will follow [us] all of [our] days (Psalm 23:1b, 5b-6 NIV).
Come to Still Life. Now is the perfect time. -adapted from Still Life, Finding Calm in a Chaotic World