The Courage to Be Still - incourage.me

“Be still and know I am God.” We’ve likely heard that verse, but in our culture of to-do lists and commitments, family obligations, and chasing our dreams, it can be hard to know how and when to “be still.” Where do we start? What does it look like to “be still,” and what can God do in our lives when we choose to listen to His quiet whispers in this loud world that can make us feel like we have to do it all?

(in)courage exists as an online community committed to making safe spaces for women to connect over topics just like this one. Every Wednesday this month we’ll be sharing some of our stories about discovering the blessings of being still. We hope you’ll read along and then join us in a weekly Community Challenge geared toward discovering who God is calling us to love and some practical steps we can do together.

As I write this, our suitcases are packed. This time tomorrow, my husband and I will be 30,000 feet in the air, flying to a place where palm trees wave and white-sand beaches beckon.

My soul is so happy about this trip that it wants to hug me.

You see, for the past 18 months, the pace of my life has been a bit frenetic (but fun) because of a new season in my life. I wrote my first book and then, unexpectedly, God called me into a speaking ministry. Meanwhile, our family took two overseas missions trips, while staying busy with day-to-day duties on a farm in Iowa.

For sure, vacationing in a sunny paradise will offer a welcome respite. I would guess that I will have several opportunities to “be still and know that He is God” under a palm tree or umbrella. I would be willing to bet, in that moment, that the fragrance of Christ will smell something like coconut-scented sunscreen.

Don’t hate me.

I look forward to each precious moment of stillness that I’ll find in the coming days. I know I will feel God’s presence in that place where the ocean kisses the shore. But I’d be a fool to think that a woman has to travel hundreds of miles to find stillness in her soul.

The truth is, God didn’t say, “Be still and go” on vacation. He said, “Be still and know.

Truth is, vacations like the one I’m taking are few and far between for most of us. Most of our days are spent in a loud world where we have job deadlines, committee assignments, laundry piles, and Lego cities that are experiencing urban sprawl in our living rooms. Someone’s got to take the garbage out, and someone’s got to make dinner. I’m guessing that a lot of the time? That person is you.

Our beleaguered souls crave stillness, but we aren’t always sure how to meet our hunger for chill-time with Jesus. Sometimes, we really do need a vacation. But a vacation isn’t the real secret to stillness. (You know that for sure when you see those poor, stressed-out parents at Disney World. Amen?)

We could travel the world in search of stillness, but if we don’t have the courage to look within, we will never find what we’re looking for.

Stillness isn’t an escape. It’s an entrance, to your innermost self, right where you are today.

Sometimes, it means you’ll drop down in that Lego city, put your head on the floor, and listen hard for the whisper of God. Or maybe you’ll stretch out on the cool grass of your yard, under a canopy of stars, while marveling at what He made.

But inner stillness also can happen in the busyness of your day, too. That’s how it went down for Brother Lawrence in the 1600s when he was washing pots and pans at the monastery. In the clatter of the kitchen, Brother Lawrence said he possessed this: “God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament.”

 Stillness isn’t the absence of movement. It’s the presence of God.

Stillness is the inner peace you experience when you brush up against the Kingdom of God, being built within you right now. It’s what happens when you remember that you are a child of light. It happens when you remember that you are a treasure, apart from the nonsense your inner critic tells you. Stillness is what happens when you let go of self-criticism and live unabashedly beloved. It happens when we take more time to count graces than catalog grudges. And it happens even in this crazy, chaotic world. Because true stillness happens apart from our circumstances.

Yeah, your search for stillness might find you on some dream vacation somewhere, where you can set yourself under the shade of some palm tree. But you could find it right now, right where you are, when you see that you’re standing in the shade of something greater — of Someone greater.

Look up to see it all now — the arms of your Father, stretching like branches over you, like the shade of a palm tree.

“I delight to sit in His shade.” ~ {Song of Solomon 2:3}

Community Challenge

Today, let’s ask God to develop a stillness within us, despite the busyness around us. Like Brother Lawrence, let’s practice the presence of God when carrying out the ordinary tasks of our day.

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Stillness is what happens when we let go of self-criticism and live unabashedly beloved. {Tweet this!}

Catch up on the rest of the “Courage To Be Still” series:

Week 1: The Truth that Will Set You Free from Trying So Hard
Week 2: When God Wants Your Surrender, Not Your Strength
Week 3: Her Success Does Not Threaten Mine
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  • Bev @ Walking Well With God

    Jennifer,
    I love how you point out being focused on the presence of God vs. the absence of movement. Why do we have this preconceived notion that we need to be perfectly still in our favorite chair in order to experience the presence of God? Sure, quiet and stillness help – that’s why I rise early before the clatter and chaos of my day begins, but you are so right in pointing out that we can be in communion with God with dishes in the sink and water up to our elbows. I know that I need Him more in aggravating traffic, going into a lab for tests, in the words I choose in conversations with my children. In the middle of the night I communed with God while up with a sick dog. I caught a glimpse of the moon and immediately I knew…He was there. I hope you have a wonderfully relaxing trip and come back rejuvenated and refreshed! Thanks for the reminder to take God with me today and not leave Him behind in my quiet time.
    Blessings,
    Bev

    • http://www.jenniferdukeslee.com/ dukeslee

      Hey Bev! I think it takes both, yes? We need those focused moments of stillness, in order to get ourselves grounded, so that we can carry stillness through our days. I love what Brother Lawrence has to teach all of us about being in communion with God, no matter if we are at work or at rest. … Thank you for your good wishes for my trip. We have just returned. I wrote this last week, right before we left. It was truly a welcome respite.

  • Marina Bromley

    So true Jennifer… and living in a place that others consider a vacation destination doesn’t guarantee that stillness either!
    It doesn’t get a lot of fanfare for a Spiritual Discipline, but I think that sometimes it’s the key to all the others.
    I hate when the busy-ness within my head, the “what if’s” and “to do’s” step up their game when I can find the time and place to physically be still. That’s when I focus on a good worship cd (or song on repeat!) and breathe in The Word.
    Thanks for sharing good words… inspiring and challenging!

    • http://www.jenniferdukeslee.com/ dukeslee

      oh…. what an interesting point you make about vacation destination. It’s like the people who live in a city with a famous park or landmark, but rarely — if ever — do they go.

      (Also? Worship music is my go-to, when I want to drown out the noise of the what ifs.)

  • Lynn D. Morrissey

    This is so beautiful Jennifer, and I sense this stillness in nearly everything you write. Funny. I always think that I will experience stillness and calm when I’m on vacation, but it rarely ever happens, because there are so many new things to see and do (unless I “hole up” at our cabin, which I love to do. I feel so close to God there). But as you and Bro. Lawrence demonstrate stillness is really a relationship with God and a “state of soul” from which deep peace emanate. I love this quote by Anne Morrow Lindbergh and thought perhaps that your readers might enjoy it too:
    “I want first of all… to be at peace with myself. I want a singleness of eye, a purity of intention, a central core to my life that will enable me to carry out these obligations and activities as well as I can. I want, in fact–to borrow from the language of the saints–to live ‘in grace’ as much of the time as possible. I am not using this term in a strictly theological sense. By grace I mean an inner harmony, essentially spiritual, which can be translated into outward harmony. I am seeking perhaps what Socrates asked for in the prayer from the Phaedrus when he said, ‘May the outward and inward man be one.’ I would like to achieve a state of inner spiritual grace from which I could function and give as I was meant to in the eye of God.” Actually, I’m not sure of Lindbergh’s theology, but I find value in the quote. And I personally want to live at peace–in stillness–with Christ. Thanks so much for sharing, Jennifer.
    Love
    Lynn

    • http://www.jenniferdukeslee.com/ dukeslee

      That’s beautiful, Lynn. Thank you for sharing.

  • Beth

    Well said, Jennifer. In the last 6 months I’ve changed my life dramatically. Instead of being a stay at home mom of adult kiddos, now I’m building a new business doing something that I never thought would be possible and had laid at the foot of the cross many times. As exciting as this is, it means my days are packed and finding time to sit still and be still is harder and harder to do. But in asking the Lord to help me abide in Him in the midst of the busyness, I’m experiencing what you’ve described. In the midst of it all I can be still and know that He is God. All I have to do is stop my mind and intentionally focus on who He is and my spirit starts to lift. Praises come into my mind and heart and a smile appears on my face for no other reason than I am His and I know He loves me. It’s pretty amazingly awesome to know that no matter how crazy a day I have, I am loved more than I’ll be able to understand here on this earth.

    • http://www.jenniferdukeslee.com/ dukeslee

      Amazingly awesome, indeed, Beth!

  • Inspired Life

    Jennifer,
    Yes, yes I know personally what you mean when you say to develop stillness within the context of the busyness. Two days last week I was doing, doing, heading to meetings, preparing for guests and the Lord whispered, “Sit with me a while”. My flesh wanted to RUSH to get my agenda items accomplished but I am so glad I obeyed. I was awash in His presence and His peace flooded my heart on both occasions. Praying for your peace in His presence.

    • http://www.jenniferdukeslee.com/ dukeslee

      So good, Inspired Life! And that’s how to live the inspired life, yes? To listen to the nudges from God, to dwell in His presence, and to obey when He calls. Grateful for your words here today.

  • karen

    Stillness is not the absence of movement, but the presence of God! THAT’s good!

    Really happy that you are getting some beach vacationing in…..is it wrong that I am also jealous? :-) ENJOY!

    • http://www.jenniferdukeslee.com/ dukeslee

      It was a wonderful time. I actually wrote this last week, just before we took off, and now we’re home again. My nose is peeling. :) Thanks for stopping by, Karen.

  • Nancy Ruegg

    Jennifer, you have delightfully expressed Brother Lawrence’s way of life for us who live in the 21st century. Surely, he too, would have experienced God in the Legos, if he lived today! Especially appreciated the idea that stillness of spirit includes remembering who we are: light, treasures, beloved, and blessed. Thank you, Jennifer!

    • http://www.jenniferdukeslee.com/ dukeslee

      Don’t you love the good brother? It’s been a while since I’ve read that slim book. I need to return to it.

  • Susan G.

    Love every last one of these truths! Life is indeed hard at times, but we press in even harder. So glad ‘every good gift’ is from our Father!
    Enjoy His Presence right there on the beach!

    • http://www.jenniferdukeslee.com/ dukeslee

      It was a wonderful time at the beach, Susan. Thanks for your comment today.

  • http://bunny-trails.blogspot.com Dianne – Bunny Trails

    This is so beautiful. As I spent time with the Lord this morning, this verse was on my mind. I’m far from having this down, but am learning how to truly be still before him. Thank You for sharing this. I so love how God ties the pieces of my life together by His word.

    • http://www.jenniferdukeslee.com/ dukeslee

      Oh, I love when God does that … brings up a verse again and again through the day in a variety of ways. So glad He connected us through that verse today, Dianne. I hope you had a great day.

  • Holy Vacation Queen

    Beautiful post, thank you! This is what my website is all about.I traveled the world looking for ‘something more’–until I found Christ–and discovered true rest is found by abiding in God where we are. Have a blessed vacation, too!

    • http://www.jenniferdukeslee.com/ dukeslee

      What a cool web concept! And I love your name, “Holy Vacation Queen.” That’s perfect for this!

    • Holy Vacation Queen

      thank you, a calling..I’m very grateful to find Incourage..such rich content! Will enjoy this holy journey with you all!

  • http://www.jacquewatkins.com/ Jacque Watkins

    Love this and you and I want to learn to practice His presence and allow Him to pause me from this pace I’m so prone to. As always, so thankful for you Jennifer…SO much. And trusting you had a marvelous time. xoxo

    • http://www.jenniferdukeslee.com/ dukeslee

      It was wonderful, Jacque. So refreshing in so many ways. I starting to peel. :)

  • Sophia

    What a beautiful post! So much to think about and ponder! Thank you! May you find refreshment and stillness on the beach and wherever else you may find yourself with Him! God bless your trip with safe travel mercies and relaxation!

    • http://www.jenniferdukeslee.com/ dukeslee

      Thanks so much, Sophia.

  • joni

    This so resonates but struggle my inner critic and my busy mind.

  • joni

    Vacation with nature where God speaks to me. My miracles happen at the oceans edge.

    • http://www.jenniferdukeslee.com/ dukeslee

      God has gifted us with His glory, abounding, in nature. Burning bushes all around, yes? Thanks for being here Joni.

      • joni

        thanks for having me in my winter time of life

  • Angel1111

    The courage to be still…..I need to remind myself to be still if I want to hear the whisper of God. The ability to quiet my thoughts eludes me at times. The courage to be still…..I need a stack of post it notes all over the house to remind me to be still or else I will miss a good Word from God.

  • http://www.preceptsandlifepreservers.com/ Christine Duncan

    Being still…. a single focus, being without distraction… you’re so right, this intense drinking in of Him can happen anywhere, and that thrills me so much. I can tap into who He is when I close off everything else from distracting my heart.
    Love you words, Jennifer, my soul gets to heave a happy sigh at the truth here today!

  • Beth Williams

    Jennifer,
    Thanks for a great perspective on stillness. We can stop in our busyness for a minute and focus on God. We can commune with God right where we are and ask Him to still our souls. For me-my job causes stress & angst within me. Just walking in my home and being away from the hustle and bustle of big city calms me down. While at work or doing stuff at home I usually have Christian music on so as to keep His presence in mind at all times. I need His presence most at work!
    Have a great & relaxing vacation! :)

  • Linda Johnson

    It’s so comforting to know I’m part of a Community of Fellow Sisters whom I can raise a high 5