You Only Need to Be Still (Lessons Learned in Quicksand)
What was it with quicksand in tv and movies when I was a kid?
I have so many memories of characters in various shows from Gilligan’s Island to Fantasy Island getting caught and meeting their untimely demise in that sinister goop.
Or what about those westerns my uncle used to watch every Thanksgiving when we were at his house? At some point someone was going to get trapped in an unforgiving patch of quicksand leaving nothing behind but a lonely cowboy hat as proof that he had been there.
I have never done an actual study of quicksand. What I know I have learned from television and movies. But here is the main takeaway I have gathered from my years of “research.”
When you find yourself caught in quicksand, do not—I repeat, DO NOT—flail around and move your body in an attempt to free yourself from its grasp, because that will only make your situation worse.
So, how DO you keep yourself from getting sucked in over your head in quicksand (according to these reliable and trustworthy sources that are tv sit-coms and dramas)?
Do the counterintuitive thing—the exact opposite of what your brain is telling you you MUST do in order to survive—
Somehow, someway, when you are surrounded by something that threatens to take you down, find a way to BE STILL.
I’ve never been stuck in actual quicksand, and I truly hope I never have to find out if this whole “keeping still” business actually works, but I’ve been stuck in a different kind of quicksand.
I’ve been stuck in the quicksand of anxiety…
…the quicksand of my own expectations…
…the quicksand of troubled relationships…
…the quicksand of stress, anger, bitterness, fear, a broken heart.
I could go on and on. There are so many different things that can press in on us and threaten our sense of security and peace.
My natural inclination when I find myself in these types of quicksands is to get busy fighting back—to fix the problem—to work on it until I figure it out.
However, something I'm learning as I mature in Christ, is that what I really need to do first and foremost is just be still.
What do I mean by “be still?”
Do I mean that I give up?
Do I mean that I resign myself to whatever is going on around me and assume I’ll just be stuck in that place forever?
No, not at all.
Being still isn’t giving up. It’s standing firm.
It’s exercising patience and waiting for God to act on your behalf.
It’s trusting that the God who sees you, the God who hears you, the God who is for you, will come and rescue you. He will work. He will fight. He will make a way for you when there really seems to be no way.
Moses told the Israelites the same thing when they were surrounded in the wilderness on their journey out of Egypt. With a sea in front of them and an angry army of Egyptians bearing down from behind, they believed they were doomed. There was no scenario in which they made it out alive.
Suffice it to say, they were furious with Moses for leading them to their death.
“Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness?” (Exodus 14:11)
“Do not be afraid,” Moses told them, “stand firm and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today…The LORD will fight for you, you have only to keep still.” (Exodus 14:14)
Do you see that?
Don’t give up.
Don’t try to find another solution.
Don’t try to run away.
This is easier said than done, though, isn’t it?
Because while I may not pack up my things and physically move myself somewhere else every time I encounter a stressful situation in my life, my mind is running and racing and solving and figuring so much that I feel like I’ve run a marathon. It truly is exhausting and it's no way to live.
So two practices I’ve learned that still my mind in the midst of the surrounding chaos and pressure life inevitably brings my way are—
Remembering and Breathing.
First I remember.
I remember all the ways God has come to my aid, comforted me, done the impossible in my life, shown me grace and mercy. There are so many ways God has worked on my behalf—so many ways he has rescued me, equipped me, made a way for me. He has never failed. Not once. And He certainly isn’t going to start now.
Remembering gives me confidence.
Remembering brings me peace.
Remembering gets me out of the swirling chaos of impossible scenarios that are raging in my mind, and brings me to a place where God has already proven Himself to be faithful.
And then I breathe…
Intentionally…deeply…attaching truth and trust to every inhale and exhale. Here’s one way you can do this.
Breathe in and recognize God’s presence. Maybe picture Him smiling on you and loving you.
HOLD FOR A MOMENT OR TWO
Enjoy God’s presence with you. Smile back at him.
As you exhale, release your anxieties to God. Picture what situation or relationship is bringing you the most anxiety or confusion, and picture it flowing away from you and into God’s hands as you exhale.
Breathe in the Holy Spirit.
Breathe out fear.
Breathe in the Presence of God
Breathe out anxiety.
You can attach Scriptures to your breathing as well. A great one is, “Be still and know that I am God,” from Psalm 43:10.
Are you caught in some quicksand right now?
If so, have you tried being still?
No amount of struggling and fighting against it will free you.
Stand firm. Remember. Breathe.
“The Lord will fight for you, you only need to be still.”