Sunday, January 5, 2014

Learning Stillness Through Illness

"And He arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea,
Peace, be still. 
And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm."
Mark 4:39

Jesus always knows how to bring stillness...and peace to whatever situation we are in.
His very presence emanates peace...serenity...and a total lack of chaos.
He is our Shepherd, and He never loses control.
He continually leads us to the place most beneficial to our souls.
His way is always best, as He sees the end from the beginning.
But, what if we are an unruly sheep?
What if we continually buck His orders,
think we know a better way,
continue to plow forward when He says, stop,
and want to stay in our old pasture, simply because it is comfortable,
and we don't like the experience of change?

To be shepherded, a sheep must be compliant.
In order to receive the maximum benefit of a perfect shepherd,
a sheep must obey all times....
trusting the wisdom and foresight of the one who leads it along.
It must stay in the fold...close to the shepherd,
so it can hear his voice,
watch his lead,
and follow his example.
All of this is in the absolute best interest of the sheep.
When the sheep becomes non-compliant,
when it decides it knows better than its shepherd,
when it becomes lazy and unwilling to move on when told to do so,
or when it wants to continue full-speed ahead, when the shepherd knows it is time to rest,
then sometimes, it becomes necessary for the shepherd to use forms of discipline.

I love the 23rd chapter of Psalms.
Honestly, it has probably been read more or at least as much as any other passage in Scripture,
but I never tire of it.
If you read this chapter every day, and you ponder each word and meaning,
I don't believe you will ever dig out all of the spiritual good in these six verses.
You will merely skim the surface.
That is what I feel I have done.
In over 35 years of serving and following the Shepherd,
in hearing Psalm 23 read and quoted from many pulpits & by multiple gravesides,
in reading it myself too many times to remember or count,
I am still finding new meaning and comfort beyond degree from its wellspring.

Verse 4 says,
"...Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me."

The rod and the staff are used for correction and direction.
When a sheep veers or varies or heads in the way of danger,
the shepherd is quick to spot the peril and make needed adjustments...
all for the sake and benefit of the sheep.

We don't always understand our Shepherd's mind.
Isaiah 55:8-9 says,
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, 
so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."

I will not speak an untruth and say that I have enjoyed this illness.
And dear, precious Zachary!
Last night, he cried and cried.
My heart broke for him.
We had plans...for the past several weeks...
plans that meant so much to him.
He was so looking forward to them,
but due to the unwelcome interference of pneumonia and other sickness,
we have had to put the plans on hold.

Things have seemed to have gone from bad to worse, at times.

The poor, little fellow has prayed....
oh, he is a little prayer warrior.
Let me tell you, if a person needs someone to agree in prayer,
there isn't a person alive who will try harder and pray with more fervency than Zachary.
This child can pray and get under the burden and intercede like you wouldn't believe.
He cares...deeply.
He has an enormous amount of faith.
He knows what God can do...not just based on hearsay,
but this child has seen the power of God....
in action, time after time after time...
right here in our home, in our family, in our lives.

He is convinced that God is real.

As he cried last night, numerous questions filling his mind,
disappointment overflowing from his heart,
we began to talk.
I told him we don't always understand why God orders us to pause and be still
or why He sometimes doesn't permit our carefully-laid plans to work out.
But, this is what trust is all about.
It is easy to say we trust God when life is going great,
health is abundant,
and we are able to move and do all we wish to.

But, it is in the hard the dark...when we can't see or understand,
when our plans have been changed, blocked, and intercepted....
when we are laid up, unable to do what our hearts desire...
then it is that we prove the real meaning of the word trust.

I've always been a person who does whatever I do with absolutely all of my heart.
I honestly don't know how to be any other way.
People who are this driven, tend to overdo...
over-drive.... what is usually an unhealthy place.

I've done it before...
and I've reaped consequences from all of my doing.

But, this time, I think God is really trying to drive home a point.
Enough is enough, and since I am so hard-headed and often don't listen to His gentle nudges,
this time He had to use a bit more drastic method of getting my full attention.
In order to get me to be still, He had to permit me to become ill.
I am learning stillness....the hard way....through illness.

So, here I am.
Recollecting...over the year that just passed by,
and re-thinking the year ahead....
which, really is all brand-new, untested, unfamiliar, and unwalked.
And truly, we don't know how far on the path of the new year any of us will walk.
We really only have now...this moment...this breath.
We aren't promised another.

My life verse....the one God whispers to me nearly every day....
the last words I hear Him speak to my heart so many nights....
is this....
"Be still, and know that I am God..."
Psalm 46:10

He has repeated this to me so many times over the past few years.
I have listened...every, single time.
Pondered His words.
Contemplated their meaning.
The depths of what He is saying to me keep deepening.
They are enhanced to my hungry soul day by day.
I am amazed at the fathomless meaning of God's Word.
Just eight little words....and just when I think I have absorbed their entire scope of meaning,
God enlarges on them once again...
and adds something new...some new dimension.

Being still does not simply mean slowing down...for a single, snapshot moment in time.
It does not merely mean to "humor" God by stopping and giving pause...
for just long enough to think we are appeasing Him.

Being still means living still.
Staying that way....not just every now and then,
but living life, day by day, breath by breath, in a quiet, relented state.
So still before Him, that I am lost in who He is.
So still, that I can hear the still, small voice of my Shepherd...any and every time He chooses to speak.
So still, that I can apply the brakes at the slightest sign of a red flag,
and not completely overturn life's apple cart.
So still, that I am in complete tune with Him,
and the music of our relationship never misses the slightest beat.

Being still means living yielded.
Knowing He is God means allowing Him to be God of my life...
my actions....yes, even down to my motives and intents.
In every situation...completely acknowledging that I am not my own.
That I have been bought with a price.
That I belong to Him.
That my actions should always reflect that.

Being still means living content.
Regardless of outward circumstances or physical condition.
It means knowing God knows what is absolutely best,
everything about my life has been filtered through His hands before it ever reached me,
and I am exactly where He wants me to be and where I am supposed to be.

Being still means no struggle.
No rebellion against His will.
Complete resignation to what He has allowed.
Even when I don't understand.
Even when life doesn't make much sense.
Even when I can't figure out the logic of His way of thinking.

Being still means total surrender.
As selfless and lifeless and pliable as a piece of clay in the hands of the potter.
The clay does not rise up in the potter's hand.
It has no will of its own.
It is at the mercy of someone greater...
someone who has a vision of what it will one day be.
It is perfectly and absolutely still.
As we should be.

I feel like I have taken one step forward, then two steps back, for the past several days.
No one likes being sick, but for me, the hardest part is the being still part.
Yet, I know this is exactly where God wants me to be.

I am so thankful that God is with us...even in the darkest moments.
He doesn't leave.
When life is at its ultimate best, or when it is so uncertain and unfamiliar.
God is the One constant that never changes.

Being still keeps us hidden in that secret place.
"He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty."
Psalm 91:1
To dwell someplace, we must be still....and stop moving.
There is a secret place, hidden under God's shadow,
that affords ultimate peace in this life....
peace that passes all understanding.
Peace that abides, even when the storm outside is raging.
Peace that endures, even when turmoil ensues.

I know all of this is hard for a child to understand...
when his plans have been overturned.

But, as we talked last night, I think Zach accepted that this is God's will.
I reminded him that if we continually squirm (click here to read more)
and struggle and try to wriggle free from God's grasp...
we dwell outside the secret place.  (click here to read more)

There is an old song called, "Be Still", written by William Ebel in 1918,
nearly 100 years ago, while walking through an intense trial.
I wanted to include the words here, as they have been such a blessing to me
in my quest to mind God and conform to the stillness...through illness...He has allowed for me.

"Oh, be still, thou soul of mine,
Thou art not forsaken;
Tho’ the powers of sin may rage,
Thou shalt be unshaken.
He who gave His life for thee,
Thus permits that thou shouldst be—
For thy good, as thou shalt see—
Tempted for a season.

Be courageous, firm and true
When life’s battle’s waging;
Oh, be still, my soul, and rest
When the tempest’s raging.
He who doth our sorrows share
In His love and tender care—
Trials more than thou canst bear,
Will not let thee suffer.

Why shouldst thou so fearful be
At the tempter’s roaring?
Simply trust in God alone,
Satan’s wrath ignoring.
See God’s tenderness, and prove
With the sainted hosts above,
His unfailing, wondrous love,
Ever for thee caring.

Yes, dear Lord, I will be still,
I will trust Thee ever;
I’ll submit to all Thy will,
Cling to Thee forever.
Lord, Thou knowest what is best,
Confident in this I’ll rest,
Till I dwell with all the blest,
And with Thee in Heaven."

This is a beautiful version I found recorded on youtube.

Click here if video doesn't load.

There is calm in the stillness.
I am finding it in the illness.
I have hardly slept for so many nights, 
I am so tired.

But God is with me.
He speaks to me...over and over...."Child, be still."
He has even set the words to music to real and powerful...
in the form of a new song.
"I call to remembrance my song in the night:
I commune with mine own heart:
and my spirit made diligent search."
Psalm 77:6

I am making diligent search...seeking earnestly for every bit of good I can glean
from this trial....this furnace of affliction.
This is where God dwells.
In the stillness.
In the quiet.
So close at hand.

Oh, my soul, be still!
For truly, I don't want to miss a thing.


  1. Such good thoughts about being still to know God. I'm thankful He leads us by still waters, (in spite of the afflictions He may use to still us). We always come through them with a blessing! Love & prayers, in Jesus, Cynthia Get well soon!

    1. Thank you so much for stopping by, Cynthia! It was such a blessings to get your kind comments today. Thank you so much for the prayers. God is hearing! And I am looking for healing soon. Love to you, Cheryl

  2. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on stillness through it all, with us here at Tell me a Story. Yes, many time we are disappointed in life, and Zachary has experienced early that plans at times must be changed. Bless his heart as he prays for health so new plans can be made.

    1. Thank you so much, Hazel! I so appreciate your encouragement. God bless you!

  3. Love your images and thoughts on stillness. "We don't always understand our Shepherd's mind." Well put.

    1. Thank you so much for stopping by here, Natalie! Your words were such an encouragement. May God's peace be with you throughout this new year!

  4. Thanks for taking the time to write while you're not felling well or sleeping much. God is good to not leave us as we are.

    The photos are wonderful--they really evoke "the calm in the stillness."

    1. Thank you so much for your dear, kind words today! I am so thankful to have met you, and I trust God's peace will continually rest upon you and yours throughout this new year.

  5. Cheryl I am stopping by via "Tell your Story".... Such a great post.... Finding God and learning to trust him even in the most difficult places....Being still long enough to see... to hear....I pray you feel better soon but that you have heard from God in such a wonderful way is well worth being down and out for a season.... I loved the points about what you learn from being still.. I am following with you..... I would love to have you visit with me...Blessings!

    1. Thank you so much, Patty! Your words were so encouraging to me tonight! So glad to have you stop by and get to meet you! I will definitely come over to your place to visit. God's peace be with you continually through this new year! Love, Cheryl

  6. This is a good word. Thanks for reminding me that being still requires total surrender.

    1. Thank you so much for stopping here today! God bless and keep you in His care!