In a world of pain, pandemic, fear, anxiety, political divisiveness, racial tensions, and shaming every time we turn around, how do you and I really embrace Jesus’ command “Peace, be still!”?
Peace is something we experience in our hearts, not something dependent on our circumstances or achieved by others’ actions or inactions toward us. And stillness is a divine gift that we can experience now more than ever if we would only embrace it. Yet, it’s so difficult to just be still right now, isn’t it?
Jesus spoke the words “Peace, be still!” to His followers who were, at the moment, harried, panicked fishermen who forgot Jesus could completely control their frightful circumstances.
In Mark 4:35-41, we read that one evening Jesus said to His disciples “Let us cross over to the other side” of the lake. So, they left the crowd in a few boats and “a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. But [Jesus] was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” (verses 37-38).
Now, the disciples had no reason to be afraid. They were going to a place where Jesus wanted to go. And since God-in-the-flesh was right there with them in the boat, there was nothing that would keep them from getting there. Yet they panicked.
Scripture tells us “Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm” (verse 39).
I love how Jesus, at the height of the storm, told the wind and the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” (NIV). Yet it was His panicked disciples who needed to hear and heed that rebuke. Although the text says Jesus rebuked the wind and waves, l like to think He said those words out loud so His disciples would get the hint and the wind and waves simply overheard…and obeyed!
Scripture says Jesus then turned to the scared, frenzied men and asked, “why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” (verses 40-41).
Jesus’ words to the wind and waves, as well as His follow-up rebuke to His disciples for not displaying faith might sound like this today: “Stop worrying! Knock off the anxiety. Quiet your hearts. Don’t you realize I can handle this?”
Jesus’ words “Peace, be still!” invite us to calm our anxious hearts and trust in the One who can not only sleep during the storm, but can help us do the same. Although Jesus was asleep in the boat that day, Scripture tells us our God “will neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:4, ESV), and is ever aware of all that we need, right when we need it.
If Jesus can calm the waves of the sea, He can certainly calm the storms in you and me. If He can command the elements of the earth, He can control the circumstances around us or the storm-tossed emotions within us.
Scripture defines peace as an inward calm that God produces in us through prayer and an awareness of His presence. Peace is trusting God in our circumstances, instead of panicking during the storm as the disciples did. Philippians 4:6-7 defines God’s peace as something that “surpasses all understanding” and “will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” We can experience that peace by not being anxious or worrying, but “in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving” making our requests known to God. In the New Living Translation, those words read, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.”
Scripture defines still as a rest and trust in the Lord. In Exodus 14:14, Moses told the Israelites how God would deliver them from the Egyptians: “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (NIV). Isaiah 30:15 (NIV) tells us “In quietness and trust is your strength.” And in Psalm 46:10, we are told to “Be still, and know that I am God.” The King James Version translates the phrase “Be still” as “Cease striving.” Therefore, to be still is to trust God and to stop trying to make things happen on our own. Verse after verse in God’s Word reminds us of God’s promise of peace and protection, rest and refuge when we are in the storm, when we are feeling overwhelmed, and when we need comfort from our distressing circumstances.
In next week’s blog I’ll give you four prayers to experience God’s peace and three steps to help you be still. In the meantime, invite Him to calm your anxious heart. And remember…if He can calm the storm-tossed sea, He can calm whatever frightens you and me.