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Feb 16, 2019

When Stillness Is a Weakness, and Why That’s a Good Thing

Sarah Christmyer

Lion mosaicKing Hezekiah ruled the kingdom of Judah from Jerusalem at a time of political unrest. Nations all around him were falling to the mighty war machine of Sennacherib, king of Assyria, who was hell-bent on expanding his empire. He brought a powerful army to the gates of Jerusalem and delivered an ultimatum: Give in to me! Your God can’t help you any more than any of the gods of the other nations could help them. Surrender to me, and live.

The situation was dire. King Hezekiah took Sennacherib’s challenge and laid it out before the Lord, asking his help. And that very night, as the people slept, the angel of the Lord slew the army of Sennacherib where they camped.

“When morning dawned, they were all dead bodies” (2 Kings 19:35).

This dramatic victory is the background for Psalm 46, which begins “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” It’s also the context for a popular verse that you’ll see posted on Facebook and taped above sinks, scribed in calligraphy and framed:

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

Be still and know that I am GodThat command, “be still,” comes from the Hebrew word rapha: “to be weak, to let go, to release.” In the context of battle, it might mean “lay down your arms.” What is the reason for the command? It is only when we are still that we can truly know that God is God. King Hezekiah’s situation shows us that. He refused to give in to Sennacherib or put his trust in another power and instead, gave in before God—who fought the battle for him.

In a similar way, when you are embattled and the situation is beyond your power or control: Be still! Lay down your “arms.” Whatever it is you are clinging to and trusting instead of God, let it go. Put yourself into the hands of God. No matter what it looks like, he is in control. Wait on the One who is able to save and who works in all things for our ultimate good.

It’s a paradox. We must let go to witness God at work and know him; but equally, it is knowing him that enables us to let go. Do you know God? Spend time in Psalm 46. Read Hezekiah’s story in 2 Kings 18-19. Get to know what God has done in the past—so you can know his “very present help” in your life today.

“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope” Romans 15:4.

This article was first published on The Great Adventure Blog on February 13, 2014.

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 Featured Photo by Tom Morel on Unsplash

About Sarah Christmyer

Sarah Christmyer

Sarah Christmyer is co-developer with Jeff Cavins of The Great Adventure Catholic Bible study program. She is author or co-author of a number of the studies. Sarah has thirty years of experience leading and teaching Bible studies. She helped launch Catholic Scripture Study and is co-author of “Genesis Part I: God and His Creation” and “Genesis Part II: God and His Family,” published by Emmaus Road. Raised in a strong evangelical family, she was received into the Catholic Church in 1992. Sarah also writes at

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  • Dear Sarah,

    Great point!

    The poem called The Destruction of Sennacherib by Lord Bryon is a beautiful tribute to this truth and I would like to share in full below because it is so fitting…also happens to be my favorite poem of all time. Enjoy!

    The Destruction of Sennacherib
    by Lord Bryon

    The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
    And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;
    The sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea,
    When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.

    Like the leaves of the forest when summer is green,
    That host with their banners at sunset were seen:
    Like the leaves of the forest when autumn hath blown,
    That host on the morrow lay withered and strown.

    For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast,
    And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed;
    And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill,
    And their hearts but once heaved, and forever grew still!

    And there lay the steed with his nostril all wide,
    But through it there rolled not the breath of his pride;
    And the foam of his gasping lay white on the turf,
    And cold as the spray of the rock-beating surf.

    And there lay the rider distorted and pale,
    With the dew on his brow, and the rust on his mail:
    And the tents were all silent, the banners alone,
    The lances unlifted, the trumpet unblown.

    And the widows of Ashur are loud in their wail,
    And the idols are broke in the temple of Baal;
    And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword,
    Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord!

  • It can be very difficult to let go and leave it with God. Sometimes we try, fail and keep trying and failing, but maybe we have to spiritually and emotionally collapse and be unable to rise, let alone pick up our cross, to get to the state where God, in his divine loving mercy, lifts the load from our backs.

    When we want nothing more than to please God, we want to offer “good things” to Him, so it can get difficult to fully give the trials, pain, weaknesses and failings. I suppose the problem is that we are confining God to our humanity instead of remembering that the limitless God, is also God of the impossible. Maybe, if asked, He can take our moments of weaknesses, failings and transform the offering into something beautiful and pleasing?

  • The Sennacherib’s attempted siege of Jerusalem took place overnight and the Angel of death breathed on them and in the following morning, most of the Assyrian Armies dead, including their horses. The history reflects our strong faith and confidence in God that yield our hopes in goodness when we are at the lowest to survive.

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