One reason we know so little about joy is that we know so little about stillness. In this age of the world, most of us are busy with a myriad of priorities and projects. And we often pride ourselves in it. The person whose has a packed diary can sometimes swagger with more prestige than the person who ‘doesn’t have much to do.’ But joy — real, authentic joy — is in seriously short supply.
We’ll try to define ‘stillness’ in a moment, but just think, by way of contrast, how unlikely it would be for joy to surface in the kind of lives we lead. Our ‘busyness’ produces so much noise and loss that the voice of joy is drowned out. It simply gets lost in the shuffle. Even if joy were to appear, it would go unnoticed.
But what does it mean to be ‘still’ before God? It doesn’t mean being physically still alone. ‘Stillness’ before God means reverence, humility, openness, and forgetfulness of self. It means putting our minds into a thoughtful posture. It means having our activity stilled and our words hushed by a compelling sense of the power of God Almighty. Above all, it means having a servant’s readiness to obey: “Speak, Lord, for your servant hears” 1 Samuel 3v9.
Just as happiness eludes those who pursue it, joy is even harder to bring under our own power. It doesn’t come ‘on command,’ but rather it is experienced, often quite unexpectedly, by those who are ‘still’ before the God. Unstill people are not good candidates for joy.
So God’s instruction to us is this: Be still, and know that I am God! Psalm 46v10 We shouldn’t obey that instruction selfishly, simply so we can have the joy we want. Nevertheless, we won’t have any joy if we don’t obey it. Without a reverent stillness at the centre of our hearts, joy has no chance to break through the noise of earthly life. Of all the killjoys in the world, irreverent busyness is the worst.