“I didn’t plan on dying today.” Unexpected lessons from Psalm 46:10

When I was lying awake one night, I asked the Lord what He would have me to share as a devotion with the staff of the non-profit where I work, and immediately, these eight simple words came to mind:  BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD. The probability of this verse being in the top ten most well-known Bible passages makes it very familiar to all of us, but I wasn’t about to tell the Lord He made a mistake!   

After reflecting on Psalm 46:10, it became apparent to me that this simple imperative is far from easy to pull off.  In fact, I think that understanding it and putting it into practice might be one of the more difficult tasks of the Christian life. I have spent the last several years of my life being challenged by it. One particular event in my life stands out as a potent illustration of what the words of this psalm mean. Allow me to break it down into short phrases, starting with the first two words as I share my story.

Be Still

About 15 years ago now, when I was living in Wilmington, NC, my kids and I would go to Wrightsville Beach with several families from our homeschool group every Thursday during the summer. On one unforgettable trip, another mom and I decided to swim across the channel with our kids from Shell Island to Figure Eight Island. It was an easy swim, and we made it across in a few minutes.  After walking down the beach a ways, we then decided to head back to Shell Island where the rest of our group was waiting.  We swam out to the middle of the channel, and then to our horror realized that we were no longer covering any distance.  At this point my friend looks at me with fear in her eyes and says, “We are not going to make it.” Immediately, my life flashed before my eyes, and I had the most terrifying thought: “I didn’t plan on dying today.” Add to this great horror and even greater one—I suddenly realized that I was going to watch my children drown one by one right in front of my eyes. I immediately started to panic, and my body began to sink beneath the waves. There was absolutely nothing I could do to get myself or my children out of this predicament. However, my friend calmly called out to us, “Everybody lie on your backs!”  We did, and the current which we had been fighting, pushed us back to Figure Eight Island. If I had continued to strive to get across the channel, I surely would have drowned.  But by simply trustin in the reality that the current was able to get me to safety and that all I needed to do was to rest, my life and the lives of my children were spared.

Taking the posture of lying on our backs was essential that day. Being still saved our lives. Rather than commanding us to do nothing, Psalm 46 is describing a posture of the heart—one that recognizes that the most pressing issues of my life have already been lovingly planned and will be accomplished—not by my striving—but by my resting in His perfect plan. 

Thankfully, moments after we made it back to Figure Eight Island, some teenagers on jet skis saw our predicament and jetted us safely back across the channel.  They said to us, “Don’t you know how dangerous it is to swim across the channel?”

That brings me to the second phrase.

And Know

Before we ventured out into the channel, one of the moms in our group had warned us, “I don’t think that is a very good idea.  The channel is not a safe place to swim.”  But we sized it up and concluded that she was being a worrywart. Only, she knew! She was convinced not only in the reality about currents, but also in her own experience. We were foolish to have not listened. We had put our confidence in our own assessment and ability to get across the channel—and that got us into a lot of trouble.  Here, God is telling us, commanding us to know.  He wants us to have absolute assurance – not a false hope. He provides us not only with truth in His word through principles and stories of His faithfulness, but also with the experiences of others around us so that we can have rock solid assurance.  

Assurance about what?  That leads me to the third phrase.

That I

God has reduced our confidence to be placed in one singular being—Himself.  Our assurance cannot be centered in ourselves, in our circumstances, or shaped by our emotions.   It can’t be dependent on another person. I can’t find my assurance in what I do, where I live or work, or what or who I know. My confidence can’t come from what others think of me. Only God can be the source of our confidence.  Everything else will disappoint, fall apart, or come to an end. I can be certain that He has a good purpose for me.

This reminds me of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  When faced with sure death, they answered King Nebuchadnezzar, “Your threat means nothing to us. If you throw us in the fire, the God we serve can rescue us from your roaring furnace and anything else you might cook up, O king. But even if he doesn’t, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference, O king. We still wouldn’t serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.”  (Daniel 3:16-28, The Message).  How could they say this with such confidence?  Because they knew without a doubt that placing their lives in God’s hands was the safest place to land.  

The last phrase is the anchor that holds the whole thought together.

Am God 

I can’t learn to be still, I can’t accurately understand truth, I can’t be assured of any good outcome unless I am looking to God—the only true source of all joy, fulfillment, power, satisfaction, and purpose.

So, because God is God and I am not, I can practice self-forgetfulness and focus on Him.  I can live my life solely to glorify Him, freeing me from the enslaving preoccupation of my own agenda. I can be confident that no matter what He sends my way, I can rest in His good plans for me and have peace.  

You would think that at the ripe old age of 56 I would have this down by now, but I have found that learning to be still is a lifelong journey. I need to be reminded daily where my true confidence lies and to constantly be challenged to practice self-forgetfulness, looking to God for ultimate purpose and joy.  And even when I fail, I cannot out fail His grace.  Many of us wrongly view the Christian life as a steady climb to a higher plane, but reality points to something more like undulations of growth and failures, always moving us closer and closer to a clearer understanding of who I am in light of who God is.  He will accomplish the work He started in me.  

I have been trying to remember to start my day repeating these eight simple words.  I invite you to join me, and perhaps together we can be sanctified by their message and encourage one another to find peace by practicing it.  

For further reflection and encouragement, listen to this song by Hope Dearest:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lsIpGiz3SfQ

(This guest post is shared by my dear friend who faithfully shares the love of Jesus with muslim refugees through a local non-profit. She is passionate about the goodness of God and the importance of knowing His Word. She wishes to write anonymously in order to give all the attention to the Lord.)