I’m sure you’ve heard the old saying “too much of a good thing.” Recent events have reminded the truth of those words. My plan of a simple five-day family cruise went awry when Hurricane Harvey showed up and extended our internment at sea to just shy of two weeks! I’ve been frequently chided since getting home that I don’t have much to complain about. I agree. I know that even now there are families who can’t go home due to the flood waters. Any of those people would have greatly preferred being stuck on a cruise ship instead of being trapped in the path of the storm. So I won’t complain, and I will count my blessings, but I will still say that even when it comes to life aboard a cruise, there really can be “too much of a good thing.”
One of the more surprising parts of my “Gilligan’s Island” cruise was the last forty-eight hours. After having spent ten days on the ship, we docked at an alternate port simply to give those passengers who wanted to get off and fly home an opportunity to do so. More than two-thousand passengers (including my wife and kids) got off and flew home leaving just a handful left aboard for two more days until we were able to dock at our intended destination.
Before leaving the ship, my wife teased me that I was looking forward to staying on by myself for a couple day’s fun at sea, sans-family. Nothing could have been further from the truth. What actually transpired over last couple of days was a whole bunch of nothing! The same movies had played over and over, the same activities just kept repeating, and the dining options that had once seemed so opulent had lost their luster. (Again, don’t feel too sorry for me. My “sufferings” were pretty easy.)
During those last two days I spent a lot of time sitting in a deck chair looking out over the water with nothing to do and a bored brain. As I did so, a long-lost memory resurfaced that really fit the occasion. I found myself remembering a poster that used to hang in my mother’s classroom many years ago of Winnie-the-Pooh, with the glummest of looks on his cartoon face, saying, “Sometime I sits and thinks, and sometimes I just sits.”
Well, I don’t like to “just sits.” I would rather be up and doing something, and if I do have to sit, I at least want to have my brain engaged in some way. However, as I sat there hour after hour, I had the mother of all mental blocks. No sermon ideas would come, no great sparks of inspiration. I tried to read, but I couldn’t even concentrate on the words for more than a few moments. It was driving me crazy!
However, my time of mental atrophy wasn’t a complete waste for it did remind me of a familiar verse of Scripture and the blessing it holds. In Psalm 46:10, God speaks and encourages us to “be still and know that I am God.” The problem is that most of us, and I count myself first among this group, don’t take the “be still” part very seriously. We tend to treat it as a simple reminder to occasionally slow down or a call to spend more time in quiet prayer and meditation. However, I’m not sure that’s what God is trying to tell us.
The Hebrew verb for “be still” can also be translated to sink (not a useful translation while aboard a ship) or to relax. The word picture we are given is one of full surrender, where we relax our grip and sink (or drop) our hands to let go our control of the uncontrollable.
This verse becomes even clearer when we remember how Psalm 46 begins. Let me refresh your memory.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. (Psalm 46:1–3, ESV)
God’s call to “be still” is set in the context of extreme storms and persistent tribulation. Verse 10 is not God’s way of telling you to take a vacation once and while. It’s His reminder that there are times when we need to cease all activity, to be completely still in hand and in heart, and affirm with shouts of praise that God is in full control!
Being still is not fun, nor is it easy, but it can be an extreme blessing. Maybe the trials surrounding you today are just getting bigger and the waves that are crashing down keep coming with an ever-increasing intensity. If so, try something radical. Stop. Be still. You might just find out what happens when God takes over.