Cease Striving

The psalmist's inner battle with the grind of personal weakness, recorded in Psalm 46, ended with a truce. He arrived at a critical decision that required every ounce of faith he could muster. He decided to withdraw from battle.

I Will Not Strive

The last four verses of his song (Psalm 46:8–11) are nothing short of magnificent.

Come, behold the works of the LORD,
Who has wrought desolations in the earth.
He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariots with fire.
"Cease striving and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."
The LORD of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah.

Following the grave situations of nature in upheaval (46:2–3) and Jerusalem under attack (46:4–7), once again the scene changes. No longer under siege within the city walls, the songwriter now surveys a battlefield. He invites us to view the mute reminders of war, a terrain littered with bodies and debris. Chariots lie on their sides, burned, and now rusty. Dust and debris cover broken bows and splintered spears. War itself has been decimated. The song describes a scene not unlike the aftermath of World War II. The beaches of Normandy; the cities of Berlin and Hiroshima; sections of London; the islands of Iwo Jima, Guadalcanal, and Okinawa. Rusty tanks. Sunken boats covered with barnacles. Concrete bunkers. A silence pervades. It is as though our God has said, "That is enough!" When the Lord acts, He's thorough.

At this point (46:10), the writer speaks for God, who commands,

"Cease striving and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."

The command "Cease striving" comes from the Hebrew imperative verb meaning "sink down, let drop, relax." Most people quote this verse in a soothing, reassuring tone, like a serene invitation to enjoy the fellowship of God. It is, in fact, a rebuke. Some scholars say it's addressed to the nations attacking God's covenant people. Others say God is rebuking the Hebrews for their lack of trust in Him. It's most likely both. The composer depicts the Lord as an angry parent breaking up a fight between siblings. While He's angry with the nations making war against His people, He's equally upset with the violence of His people, who have turned to warfare rather than a complete trust in Him. There's a subtle suggestion that their aggressive attempts to defend themselves are making matters worse rather than better.

Does this sound familiar? Do you live in strife and panic? Is there a fretful spirit about you? Have your self-protective attempts caused more harm than good? Do you know that God wants to give you rest? Hebrews 4:9 promises: "So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God." In response to your realization of personal weakness, God has called you to "cease striving," to end the perpetual, frenetic grind to overcome difficulties too big for you.

Does this mean we should slip into neutral and do nothing? Hardly. It means we first enter that rest He has provided (Hebrews 4:11), and then face the situation without panic or strife. If He wants us involved, He will give our minds clarity, removing any doubt as to what we should do. Our responsibility is to enter deliberately into His invisible sanctuary of rest, to trust Him completely for safety and provision. That is our best preparation for battle; to be filled and surrounded by His Sabbath rest. It is amazing what that does to stop the grind of personal weakness.

In the final analysis, it is the Lord's job to provide the victory over every one of our weaknesses. He can handle whatever is needed. Our striving will never do it.


In the final analysis, it is the Lord's job to provide the victory over every one of our weaknesses.

Charles R. Swindoll Tweet This

Adapted from Charles R. Swindoll, Living the Psalms: Encouragement for the Daily Grind (Brentwood, Tenn.: Worthy Publishing, a division of Worthy Media, Inc., 2012). Copyright © 2012 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights are reserved. Used by permission.

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