Stillness and Joy

by Gary Henry

"Be still, and know that I am God" (Psalms 46:10).

Nowadays, one reason we know so little about joy is that we know so little about stillness. In this age of the world, most of us are busy with a myriad of priorities and projects. And we pride ourselves in it. The person whose schedule is packed has more prestige than the fellow who "doesn't have much to do." But joy real joy is in seriously short supply.

We'll try to define "stillness" in a moment, but just think, by way of contrast, how unlikely it would be for joy to surface in the kind of lives we lead. Our "busyness" produces so much clamor and clatter, the voice of joy is drowned out. It simply gets lost in the shuffle. Even if joy were to appear, it would go unnoticed.

But what does it mean to be "still" before the Lord? It doesn't mean being physically still, though stillness of the body is often involved. And it doesn't mean not saying anything, though that is often involved as well. "Stillness" before God means reverence, humility, openness, and forgetfulness of self. It means putting our minds into a thoughtful posture. It means having our activity stilled and our words hushed by a compelling sense of the power of God Almighty. Above all, it means having a servant's readiness to obey: "Speak, Lord, for your servant hears" (I Samuel 3:9).

I suggest that it would be rare for a person to experience genuine joy if he or she were not mentally disposed in the manner we've just described. That is the only kind of environment in which real joy can make an appearance. Just as happiness eludes those who "pursue" it, joy is even harder to bring under our own power. It doesn't come "on command," but rather it is experienced, often quite unexpectedly, by those who are "still" before the Lord. Unstill people are simply not good candidates for joy.

So God's instruction to us is this: Be still, and know that I am God. We shouldn't obey that instruction selfishly, simply so we can have the joy we want. Nevertheless, we won't have any joy if we don't obey it. Without a reverent stillness at the center of our hearts, joy has no chance to break through the noise of earthly life. Of all the killjoys in the world, irreverent busyness is the worst.

"The heart that is to be filled to the brim with holy joy must be held still" (George Bowes).