That’s one of the important lessons I’ve learned in life. I know, it’s the opposite of what we usually hear when we’re faced with a challenging situation: “Don’t just stand there; do something!” But I’ve found that more often than not, leaping into action makes things worse, whether the action is running toward the problem aggressively, or running away from the problem in fear. I’ve learned that most of the time, the best course of action is standing still for a while.

There is a continuing theme in the Old Testament Psalms of waiting for the Lord:

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning. (Psalm 130:5-6; see also 25:5, 25:21, 27:14, 37:34, 40:1, 69:3)

The Hebrew word for “wait” comes from a root meaning “twist,” as a rope under tension, so this is not necessarily patient waiting. It can be hard to stand still and wait; that’s why the psalm-writer has to keep reminding us.

The disciples were excited by their time spent with Jesus after his resurrection, but he told them not to run off and try to save the world:

While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. . . . They asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:4, 6-8)

There are some examples of this in the Old Testament history of God’s People, where he expressly told them not to act, but just to stand and watch. One was on the shore of the Red Sea when the mighty Egyptian army was closing in on them:

Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.” (Exodus 14:13-14)

Then, 300 years later, when they were a well-established kingdom with a strong army, they had to be reminded again:

“This battle is not for you to fight; take your position, stand still, and see the victory of the Lord on your behalf. . . . Do not fear or be dismayed; the Lord will be with you.” (2 Chronicles 20:17)

While you stand still, you may observe powerful forces blow this way, then that way, sometimes cancelling each other out and leaving you in a calm place of secure trust, where you experience what the ancient poet wrote about:

“Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

Maybe you’ll never truly know God until you learn to be still in a turbulent time.

— Pastor George Van Alstine