Stillness required when listening to God

Curtis K. Shelburne

“Be still, and know that I am God,” urges the Lord through the psalmist (Psalm 46:10). And the prophet writing in Lamentations 3:26 observes that “it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.”

God seems to be saying, “My child, take some time to be still and be quiet. Listen awhile.”

Kids like us have a hard time with God’s prescription. We rarely try it. Quietness bothers us. Stillness makes us nervous.

We so often lead unbalanced lives. We can and should honor the Lord in our work, our play, our rest, but we dishonor God and hurt ourselves and others when we allow our lives to become unbalanced.

If, for example, we become workaholics willing to sacrifice our families to our own need to “achieve,” we not only rob people who deserve better of us, we deny a basic truth of the gospel. Our worth springs not from our own frantic effort to create it; it comes from our Creator. Because we’re God’s, we are already of immense value and deeply loved completely apart from anything we might ever achieve. If we believe God’s description of success,” we’ll work better when we work. But we’ll also play better when we play and rest better when we rest.

Along with our loud and frantic society, we avoid quietness for another deep reason: We’re terrified of it. To be quiet and still for long means we might have to take a hard look deep into our own souls. We might have to ask some questions about how much most of our frantic activity really matters and how much of real value we’re receiving from the way we’re selling the moments of our lives.

So I wonder. What would it take for most of us to be willing to spend more time in quiet stillness?

I know what it took for Louis Zamperini. Louie was an Olympic runner whose bid for a second Olympics was cut short by World War II. In her fascinating book Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand follows Louie from his early life as quite a rascal, to the Olympics as a world-class runner, to World War II as a B-24 bombardier, through his hair-raising experiences in the air, and even more amazing, as a survivor of almost two months in a life raft in the Pacific following the downing of his plane, and later, as a POW held by the Japanese.

More than a few downed crewmen adrift in rafts had been reduced to madness, but betwixt moments of horror, Louie found a surprising clarity of mind. Hillenbrand writes that Louie “had never recognized how noisy the civilized world was. Here, drifting in almost total silence,” he found that “his mind was quick and clear, his imagination unfettered and supple.” He could “stay with a thought for hours, turning it about.”

Some gifts God can give us only through quiet stillness. May we be wise enough and disciplined enough to put ourselves in positions to receive them—without having to suffer a crash beforehand.

Curtis Shelburne is pastor of 16th & Ave. D. Church of Christ in Muleshoe. Contact him at