The NASB translation of the Bible contains this version of Psalm 46:10—
Cease striving and know that I am God.
Many Christians know this verse as “Be still and know that I am God”—it’s short and sweet and looks really great on DaySpring greeting cards with sunshine and flowers. But I had never heard it this way before, and it seemed to capture what I’ve been feeling for a while now.
First, a thought on striving: It’s not an inherently bad thing. How on earth would you grow, learn, and improve unless you challenged and stretched yourself by creating goals, taking it to the limit, going out on a limb? We strive to do the right thing when we are caught in ethical and moral dilemmas, say the right thing to that person that needs comforting and encouragement, to be good people, better people.
I’ve been asking myself lately if I’m striving for the right things or for the right reasons. I often find myself striving for approval—mostly from myself and the impossible standards that I burden myself with, but also for approval from others. I feel like I have to convince people that I’m worth their time, that I’m cool and smart, relevant and fun. I feel like meeting people is sometimes an audition--give 'em the old razzle dazzle, knock 'em dead, break a leg--and I dread the critics’ feedback. Four stars? Poignant and charming? Vapid and a waste of time? A work of art…a masterpiece?
Cease striving, Lisa.
We’re all striving for things that don’t matter, whether we are consciously aware of it or not. We strive to be in control, to create order, to look better than her in a bikini, to bench more than that bro, to raise “better” kids than theirs, to have the most facebook friends and re-tweets, to own the greenest lawn and most expensive car on the block. We arm ourselves with stuff and mistake it for worth; we arm ourselves with information and pass it off as intelligence; we stuff our calendars with church activities and think it's piety. We’re always ready with our hat tricks, trump cards, check mates, last laughs, and one-ups.
We want to have it All Together. We are terrified of drowning in irrelevance, in The Ordinary. But by striving to keep our heads above water, maybe we're not seeing that we already are in too deep.
This habit of striving sneaks into my spiritual life and creates a busy, graceless relationship with God. Where did it get to the point that I decided I needed to induce his love? That grace was earned? That I forgot to stop Martha-ing and sit at his feet in complete awe?
Brennan Manning writes, “I’ve decided that if I had my life to live over again, I would not only climb more mountains, swim more rivers, and watch more sunsets; I wouldn’t only jettison my hot water bottle, raincoat, umbrella, parachute, and raft; I would not only go barefoot earlier in the spring and stay out later in the fall; but I would devote not one more minute to monitoring my spiritual growth. No, not one…what would I actually do if I had it to do all over again? Heeding [the gospel of] John’s counsel, I would simply do the next thing in love.”
Cease striving. Cease striving. Cease striving.