Be Still and Know Our God is Still God
“During these times…” We have all heard these words countless times over the past few months. We stare at them on billboards, hear them at the start of TV commercials, and type them into email greetings. Everyone is eager to state the obvious: we live in a suffering world (and that’s perhaps more evident now than ever before).
We are told again and again that the situation we currently face is “unprecedented” and “challenging.” No one bothers sugar-coating what this chapter of life has taken from us. Nor should they, really. Suffering deserves to be heard. I’m not going to lie: a life without live sports, in-person classes, or time with grandparents has been trying.
That being said, in the midst of widespread uncertainty “during these times,” as Christians, we have a special opportunity to rest in who we know God is. Throughout Scripture, God takes on many different attributes that help us define His full character: our Shepherd (Psalm 23), our Rock (Psalm 18:2), and the Light of the World (John 8:12), just to list a few.
Looking at each of these characteristics, we cannot help but be overwhelmed by how transcendent our Lord is. At the same time, these are not just arbitrary roles or poetic titles, but they guide our relationship with God and reveal more and more of His personal nature. In light of these hard times, it is more important than ever to take comfort in these attributes of God.
God Our Shepherd
When Christians hear “God our Shepherd,” I think we jump to the images presented within Psalm 23. This tendency is completely understandable; there’s an assurance of comfort and protection when we think of Him guiding us “through green pastures” and tending to our most basic needs. We, as members of His flock, eat up these soothing verses.
But when we limit God’s “Shepherding” to watching over us in green pastures, we misunderstand the depth of this role.
More recently, I’ve been reminded of another commonly referred to practice of shepherding; if a lamb ever strayed too far, shepherds were known to leave the flock behind to seek out and rescue the one (Luke 15:1-7).
The little lamb, as it runs away, fails to recognize the dangers it faces outside of the shepherd’s protection. Despite the comfortable position it has been freely offered among the flock, it chooses to wander time and time again.
Feeling convicted yet?
If we are honest, each of us has followed in the lamb’s footsteps, stubbornly playing at an illusion of self-sufficiency. Instinctively, we tell God that we can take on the world alone, and we pridefully walk ahead of Him.
As someone who has found “slowing down” over the past several months to be entirely unnatural, I have become all the more aware of how much of my life I’m still withholding from God. Classwork, relationships, and career planning have all become tools through which I stray, telling God that I’m in control.
So, I’m beyond grateful that the narrative doesn’t end there. As our Good Shepherd, God has the wisdom we lack: He sees the obstacles in our way, the wolves waiting just over the hills. And by some miracle, even as we run, He willingly chases.
In my current chapter of life, I now see the depth of God’s surpassing grace in a new light. The Lord is my Shepherd, and His love through the dark times covers me more wholly than any stroll through a picturesque pasture ever could.
God Our Rock
But in this trying season, God reveals Himself as more than just our Shepherd–He is also our Rock. If there’s one thing that my freshman year (well, more like ¾ of a year, but who’s counting?) of college has taught me, it’s that I still have a lot to learn about practicing patience and true faith. As someone who was awfully fond of her busy schedule that didn’t leave much room to breathe, suddenly being forced to be still feels crippling.
These past few months, I’ve felt sidelined, stuck watching as my original, “productive” summer plans were cancelled and my phone screen time report almost tripled week by week (I’ve secured a spot in the top ten Netflix watchers rankings of all time, I’m sure of it).
But looking back, I couldn’t be more grateful for the summer I was given. God gifted me with a six-month mental, physical, and emotional Sabbath; a break from business and almost a little too much time with family.
It was a summer that I so desperately needed but would’ve never chosen. Even as our lives have been upended, the Gospel has not been shaken. As Christians, during times of rapid change and instability, we must also lean all the more into God our Rock.
It’s hard not to see the beauty in this attribute nowadays as it is continually unveiled in the contrast between our changing lives and His ultimate plan. As the world spirals towards chaos, our Rock has still made ways for His kingdom to be glorified. There is abundant reassurance in being grounded in not only His stability but also His plan’s endurance.
God Our Light
No doubt, the best news quarantine has retaught me is how our God, the Light of the World, will never leave us lost to darkness. These days, when we fix our eyes on the headlines being pushed out of newsrooms, it’s admittedly hard to see an ending. As someone who has spent many days praying for a return to “normalcy,” this too can feel just as crippling as the forced stillness. Yet, this worldly point of view blinds Christians to the very visible work of God through us.
The most empowering part of this attribute of God is that it is one He intends to share with us (Matthew 5:14). Christians and the Church collectively are called to be lights, and we too should brighten the world around us, manifesting God’s love and truth to others.
As if it was not enough for God to give us an eternal home, He also reserved for us a central role in furthering His kingdom.
Now more than ever before, these three characteristics guide us in our understanding of the Gospel of grace to its fullest extent. So, let’s listen with open ears to what He is actively teaching us, and have faith in His vast nature throughout the process of restoration.
Though it might be difficult to see amidst a season of suffering, God has promised us something that we will never deserve: “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10).