Be Still in the Middle of the Battle

With so much at stake, how can we follow the psalmist’s instruction?

On a sticky, steamy night last summer, I sat on my back porch in the dark and stared at a gangly potted cactus. This Epiphyllum oxypetalum, commonly known as the “Queen of the Night” was a gift from an elderly gardener friend. He promised me that there would be spectacular, if short-lived, nocturnal flowers. “And it’s really easy to take care of,” he assured. “I get seven or eight blooms at a time from my other plant.”

And yet, five years later, I had only seen a single, spent bloom, hanging between the scalloped stems like a deflated balloon. It was not for lack of trying. I watered the cactus regularly, but not too often. I adjusted its position for indirect sunlight. I fertilized, and I pruned. I brought it inside faithfully before outside temperatures dropped. Its tentacle stems grew rapidly in all directions. But the promised late-summer buds never appeared.

Then, last spring, as my family floundered in wave after wave of traumatic loss, I stuck the plant on the corner of the front porch and turned to care for other, more pressing needs. So on that late summer evening, it was to my utter surprise that I found two swollen buds sheathed in twisting, pink sepals, ready to bloom.

The well-known instruction of Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God,” is a popular refrain. It appears on bumper stickers, hand-lettered signs, and shareable social media content. We invoke it as an encouragement to slow our frenetic pace and trust God to care for us. But the CSB translation offers a slightly different take: “Stop your fighting, and know that I am God.”

Psalm 46 begins by describing a context of cataclysmic upheaval. Declaring that God is our refuge, strength, …

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