One of the biggest challenges we’ll ever face as a Christian comes when God says, “Stay.”
We’ve all been there. And I don’t know about you, but that command only gets harder to hear the older I get.
It can be one of the most difficult things we have to do, especially when we see people all around us actively doing amazing things for the Kingdom. You probably know many people changing jobs, starting movements, and uprooting their lives across states, or even countries, to follow where God is leading them. Maybe that’s you right now. Whether you are in a season of action or not, you will undoubtedly come to a time in life when God says, “Stay.”
It makes you feel small. It makes you feel weak. It makes you feel unneeded. We get uncomfortable because we know that in order for big things to happen, people have to actually be doing things. And sitting on the sidelines feels wrong.
However, just because it feels wrong, doesn’t mean we are being punished for being bad servants or that it is wrong at all. Everyone needs rest sometimes.
Our job in these moments is to listen to what God is telling us. Why is he asking us to stay still? What are we supposed to do in the quiet? The answer is going to be different for everyone, so if you want to know what God is asking of you, you have to grapple with it yourself.
The biblical King David dealt with many moments of waiting on God. In his darkest turmoil and loneliness, he came to a deep understanding of stillness and quiet, and what God wanted him to learn from it.
Throughout the Psalms, he cried out to God continually because he felt alone, forsaken, and scared. One psalm (while not ascribed to David) is a reminder that it is alright for God's people to not constantly be taking action.
“Be still and know that I am God. / I will be exalted among the nations, / I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46:10 ESV).
The silence does not mean God is telling us to be lazy or apathetic to his plans. Sometimes it means that he is doing something big and we just need to wait. David encouraged God’s people to find peace in the waiting. He says,
“Be strong, and let your heart take courage, / all you who wait for the Lord!” (Psalm 31:24 ESV).
But it’s not always easy for us to be at peace with the silence. And it wasn’t easy for David, either. At a time when he was facing intense depression and exhaustion, he says,
“I am weary with my crying out; / my throat is parched. / My eyes grow dim / with waiting for my God” (Psalm 69:3 ESV).
Yet in all his suffering, he learned that God’s timing would always be better than his own. In the same Psalm, when his throat is aching and his eyes are puffy with tears, he declares,
“But as for me, my prayer is to you, / O Lord. / At an acceptable time, O God, / in the abundance of your steadfast love / answer me in your saving faithfulness” (Psalm 69:13 ESV).
David, a man after God’s own heart, had to learn how to rest in God’s silence and find peace in his timing. And it wasn’t easy for him. While he valiantly waited about 15 years until his time to become king, at other times he made big mistakes.
David often despaired, as we all do. He cried out hundreds—probably thousands—of times for God to listen to him. The silence tore him up. But he waited on God, and he grew in faith because of it.
“But I am like a green olive tree / in the house of God. / I trust in the steadfast love of God / forever and ever. / I will thank you forever, / because you have done it. / I will wait for your name, for it is good, / in the presence of the godly” (Psalm 52:8-9 ESV).
Being grounded often seems like a punishment to us. It creates a crisis within us and we begin to question who we are and who God is. And that’s OK. Cry out. Struggle with it. Fall on your knees and really listen to God. Listen to the silence.