The Gift of Stillness

May 12, 2020 · by Peyton Johnston

In the beginning of John chapter 6, we see the moment where Jesus performed the miracle of feeding a crowd of thousands by multiplying five loaves and two fish into more than enough to feed them all. After the crowd saw this, they were adamant about making Jesus their king. So adamant, in fact, that they became forceful about it. But of course, Jesus had no intention of being their earthly king. So Jesus slipped away into the mountains to pray and escape these unreasonable people.

John 6:16-24 says:

“That evening Jesus’ disciples went down to the shore to wait for Jesus. But as darkness fell and Jesus still hadn’t come back, they got into the boat and headed across the lake toward Capernaum. Soon a gale swept down upon them, and the sea grew very rough. They had rowed three or four miles when suddenly they saw Jesus walking on the water toward the boat. They were terrified, but He called out to them, ‘Don’t be afraid. I am here!’ Then they were eager to let Him in the boat, and immediately they arrived at their destination.”

When I first read this, my immediate thoughts were:

Why were the disciples so quick to leave without Jesus?

Why would they make a move without getting clear direction first?

Didn’t they trust Him to come back for them?

Their actions seemed so ridiculous to me . . . Until I realized just how many times I do the exact same thing.

You see, it’s easy to judge the disciples because we are able to see the end of the story. We know Jesus comes back and saves them, so we wrinkle our nose at their impatience and rash decision-making. But these twelve men were caught in a moment of uncertainty. They did not know what was to come. All they knew was that they could not hear or see their Lord, and the discomfort that grew in the stillness of the moment was urging them to move.

I have had a countless number of times where God has proven His faithfulness in my life. Yet, how often do I still grow so impatient with the stillness of life that I move without waiting for His guidance?

None of us like waiting. None of us enjoy uncertainty. And most of us are guilty of forgetting His goodness when we're faced with the unknown. Sometimes our impatience comes from confusing His silence as His absence. We think that if He feels far away and we cannot hear His voice, He has forgotten us or His love has turned to apathy. We do not see it as having been led to a season of stillness, but mistake it as meaning that He has abandoned us. And then just like the disciples, we allow this to lead us forward into the uncertain waters without His guiding hand. And we find ourselves caught up in a storm of confusion and frustration of our own making that could’ve been avoided had we just trusted and waited on Him.

The disciples lost hope while they were waiting for Jesus to come to them for direction, but never once did they go out to find Him. Instead of moving toward Him, they turned their own way which led them into a storm. And consider this: Jesus knew where the disciples were and what their next step should be all along. But He also knew there was a storm coming. So I wonder if Jesus was intentionally waiting before He met the disciples because He wanted to wait for the storm to pass before they went out on the water.

Had the disciples sought out Jesus first, they would have had a lot more clarity about their situation and a lot more hope about what lay ahead. And the same is true for us.

It’s crazy how much turmoil can come internally from nothing happening externally. We feel as though the value of life slips away in the midst of stillness. We become overcome with fear of a fruitless future if something noteworthy doesn’t start. But the truth of the matter is that if He takes you to stillness, it’s for a reason -- a good reason. The stillness is more often than not a gift. A gift of pausing to recollect, reflect, and refresh.

So what about you in this time of stillness in your life? Maybe your season has lasted longer than just the last several weeks of quarantine. Maybe you have felt stuck for months or even years, waiting for God to give you an answer on where to go and what to do next. Or maybe you got tired of waiting and went out into the sea before hearing from God and now find yourself in a storm.

Whatever the case may be for you, just hold on. If you are waiting on the shore, keep waiting. He’s coming. He’s going to lead you onto your next destination, but no sooner than the absolute perfect time. Don’t grow weary in waiting, but find strength in knowing He is keeping you from storms that you cannot see. And if you are caught in the raging winds of confusion and chaos, don’t worry, my friend. He will meet you there, too. He will calm the waters and lead you to the destination. You just have to let go of control and call out to Him. Seek Him out, and you will find Him. It's promised to you!

Trust in the Lord. Don’t become restless in this time of stillness and face the waters alone. You can do the right thing at the wrong time, and it becomes the wrong thing. Walking with Him doesn’t ensure a storm-less path, but it does ensure that you’ll be facing storms with the only One who can calm them. And waiting on Him will without a doubt keep you from troubles that come with walking alone. Use the stillness as a time of preparation on the shore. Learn and grow. Build your knowledge and faith. Get ready for that next destination. Be the best disciple you can be right where you are. And then when the time comes to move forward, you’ll be ready to face whatever comes confidence because He will be with you.

Peyton Johnston

About Peyton Johnston

Peyton Johnston is from Terre Haute, Indiana, where she recently started working as the Catering Coordinator for Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. She's passionate about music, youth, and global missions ministries at her church. Peyton is an enneagram 3w2 who’s known for being an avid list-maker, drinking far too many hazelnut cappuccinos, traveling far and wide, and wearing all black more often than the norm. She's in pursuit of living an intentional, grace-filled life that wholly reflects her Creator.