Be Still, My Soul

THE MOMENT THAT ADAM TASTED THE FRUIT, he knew that eating it had been a mistake. He had always known what “good” was. He had only to look around him to see that everything that God had created was perfect; and God Himself had declared that it was all very good. But the sweet fruit became like bile in his mouth, because for the first time, he also knew evil. And that evil was not outside of him, but was in his own heart. Why had he listened to the serpent and doubted God? For the first time, he felt guilt and he wished he could go back. But it was done now and he could not undo it.

When he and Eve heard God walking in the garden, they hid from Him out of shame and fear. God had told them that they would die if they ate the fruit. And they did die. Before, time had had no effect on them; from that day forward they were destined to return to the earth. Where once the earth had readily produced food, it began to produce thorns and they would now toil for the things they needed to live. Where their bodies had known only comfort, they now would be subject to a thousand diseases and pains. Where only the peace of God had been, mankind was thrust into turmoil, strife and death. But God would not allow death to reign forever over His creation. Though man had failed and fallen, God would prove Himself faithful and raise him up again.

“Be still, my soul! The Lord is on thy side; bear patiently the cross of grief or pain. Leave to thy God to order and provide; in every change, He faithful will remain. Be still, my soul! Thy best, thy heavenly Friend through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.”

“Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” cried Jesus’ disciples. They knew that storms could rise suddenly on the Sea of Galilee, but this one caught them by surprise. Those among them who were fishermen by trade knew the signs and would usually be alert to impending changes in the weather, but they had failed to see this storm coming.

Now the waves were crashing over the sides of the boat and they were certain they would soon drown. They rushed about frantically, trying to save themselves. But they were shocked when they noticed that, amid the fury of the storm, Jesus was asleep in the stern! How could He sleep at a time like this? As they roused Him, He looked out over the unruly sea and commanded, “Peace! Be still!” and immediately the wind and waves subsided. Dumbfounded, His disciples looked at one another and said, “Who is this, that even the wind and waves obey Him?”

“Be still, my soul! Thy God doth undertake to guide the future as He has the past. Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake; all now mysterious shall be bright at last. Be still, my soul! The waves and winds still know His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.”

He had been hanging on the cross for hours now. Grief, confusion, anger, guilt… all these feelings mixed and washed over His disciples who were forced to watch helplessly as agony wracked Jesus’ body and His strength began to fade. When He allowed Himself to sag down, He couldn’t catch His breath. When He pulled Himself up to breathe, His wrists and feet exploded in pain at the pressure of the long spikes driven through them.

As the crowd looked on, some weeping and others scoffing and sneering at Him, only Jesus knew that His work was done. He had accomplished the mission for which He had been sent. And with a loud voice, they heard Him cry, “It is finished!” And at last His writhing body relaxed as He gave Himself to death.

“Be still, my soul! The hour is hastening on when we shall be forever with the Lord; when disappointment, grief, and fear are gone, sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored. Be still, my soul! When change and tears are past, all safe and blessed we shall meet at last.”

The hymn “Be Still, My Soul” by Katharina von Schlegel, has been playing through my mind lately. In these words, we reflect on the fact that God will remain faithful to His promises. That even in our doubt, He holds us safely in His hands. That a blessed day is coming when we will forget all sorrow and be with Him forever.

What a treasure we have in the Church’s hymns that take the truth of God’s Word and put it into song. There is something about the way God has designed us that music can move us beyond our circumstances. So wherever you may find yourself today, rejoice in the truth of God’s faithfulness and love for you and let your heart sing: “Be still, my soul! The Lord is on thy side…”

Pastor Jason Salmi

Vancouver, Washington