Be Still, My Soul

Psalm 131

O Lord, my heart is not lifted up;

my eyes are not raised too high;

I do not occupy myself with things

too great and too marvelous for me.

 But I have calmed and quieted my soul,

like a weaned child with its mother;

like a weaned child is my soul within me.

 O Israel, hope in the Lord

from this time forth and forevermore.

Worriers live in the future. David knows this. I know this. We all know this. By the Holy Spirit’s grace and power at work in David, we have been given this tiny, but mighty Psalm, which deals a devastating blow to our pride and anxiety. Oftentimes in the Scriptures we are told to “cast our cares to God” and “do not worry.” These rich truths act as a bulwark against our anxiety. Remarkably, Psalm 131 takes a strikingly different approach to our perpetual anxiety. David, speaking in first person, is keenly aware of what is causing his anxiety—a proud heart. Therefore, he is no longer willing to lift his heart up in pride, nor will he raise his eyes in arrogance. His future is not in his own hands, but in those of his covenant-keeping God.

I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. Inferentially, there is an identification of our finitude. We cannot fathom all that God has done and is doing in our lives; His ways are beyond searching out. John Piper says it this way, “God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of three of them.” I would add that the three we know of are only known in part. Therefore, since we do not fully know all that God is doing in our lives, let us put off vain pre-occupation and put on humility, which joyfully acquiesces to the will of God for our lives.

I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother.This imagery vividly captures a soul at rest. The child is content with his mother’s presence. How much more should we be content, as children of the Most High God? The Great I Am graciously invites us to take part in quieting our soul, by seeing his presence as a respite for our anxious hearts. David is not calming himself with sheer brute force and willpower, but in the strength and grace that God supplies. The same Spirit at work in David is the same Spirit at work in you and I, enabling us to calm and quiet our anxious souls. We have a role to play in our sanctification—albeit, a supporting role—which is contingent upon the Holy Spirit’s divine role and necessary work in our hearts.

O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore. The Holy Spirit through David is calling his covenant people to hope in the Lord alone and for all time. This is not a suggestion. On the contrary, it is a loving and merciful imperative, which carries this connotation: O Israel, my beloved children, my elect ones whom I dearly love, trust in me. This imperative has bearing on our lives too, because we are now in Christ who is true Israel. So let us calm and quiet our souls in the presence of the One who draws us with loving-kindness.

O Heavenly Father,

Forgive us for our prideful fretting over things pertaining to this life. Help us to humbly come before your presence and rest in the shelter of your arms, knowing that you are faithful to care for every one of our needs. Not one word of your good promises has ever failed. Holy Spirit teach us to quiet our souls and let us not lift up our eyes—except to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord.

We pray this in the mighty name of Jesus.

Ekemini Uwan is a public theologian and co-host of the Truth’s Table Podcast. Her insights have been quoted by the New York Times, The Washington Post, and other major publications. You can find more of her writing at www.sistamatictheology.com and follow her on Twitter @sista_theology