Be Still My Soul


Dee Brestin shares from her struggle with depression following the death of her husband.

It was the perfect storm. Jesus was asleep. They were terrified for their lives. Yet He was surprised that they were. Oh! He is speaking to each of us in this account.

My current study on The God of All Comfort has a very similar theme to my last study on overcoming the idols of our heart. 

  • We trust in our idols instead of God because we think He’s asleep. We think He doesn't care. We think He won’t help us.
  • We go to the depths of despair when we face trouble because we think He’s asleep. We think He doesn't care. We think He won’t help us. That day in the boat the disciples said: “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4:38)


We believe the enemy’s lie that we are not loved or secure.

Our souls become like madwomen. 

When I read my prayer journal entries during the time Steve was fighting cancer and then, after he died, they often border on hysteria. I’m riding the waves of the storm crying Help! Help! Where are you, Lord? I can’t do this! I’m going down!

In a famous sermon on spiritual depression, Martin Lloyd-Jones said:

Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?

I was treading water as long as I just listened to my feelings. It wasn't until I started speaking to my soul that I began to move through the river of grief. I began to memorize and sing the  hymn, "Be Still My Soul." I sang it, literally, every night for two years. All five verses. 

I do want to say here that depression is complicated, for God made us to be physical, emotional, and spiritual beings. A reader of my blog, Dawn M.S., has a striking testimony concerning this and how God brought her out using physicians and medicine as part of her healing. I believe it is vital we be open to this. Even Jesus said, “The sick need a physician.”

Yet, in this post, we are looking primarily at spiritual depression and anxiety — when our souls are overcome with grief because of storms in our lives. "Be Still My Soul" is a hymn to sing to our souls at times like this.

"Be Still My Soul" is put to the music of Finlandia, which having no great leaps, soothes the soul of God’s frightened child. Moody’s Rosie, who some of you know from their book club program, had lunch with me and we looked at the poetry of the hymns. (I love feisty little Rosie — such depth. I always remember her speaking at Founder’s Week, fighting for the hymns, and saying, “I Love You, Lord” will never be "A Mighty Fortress is our God!")

Rosie often sees why music is powerful. With "Be Still My Soul" she said, “Notice, Dee, how the words in the hymn are monosyllabic — that has a firmness, the way you would calm a fretful baby [or a madwoman] with monosyllabic sounds like:

Now, now… There, there…Hush, Hush…

Do you see it? Every word a monosyllable: Be   still   my   soul

How we need to speak the truth to our souls.

Reflect on the opening two verses:

1. Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly, Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

2. Be still, my soul; thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.

HOW I SANG SANG SANG THIS TO MY SOUL IN HIGH-TIDE GRIEF. The music so supported the words. I would sing, “Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake” and my soul would begin to quiet.When I would remind my soul of how Jesus stilled the storm, of how “the winds and waves still know His voice who ruled them” my soul would calm.

This hymn became associated with Eric Liddell, the Olympic runner and missionary to China, whose life was featured in the movie Chariots of Fire. After the Olympics, Eric became a missionary in China, was captured, and died of a brain tumor in a prison camp. Shortly before he died, he taught "Be Still My Soul" to other prisoners, and they found scraps of paper with the lyrics on his cot after he died. They sang it at his funeral and the congregation rose in honor of the man who so lived its lyrics. I certainly recommend seeing Chariots of Fire if you haven’t — and watching it with your children. Last night, I watched an inspiring documentary of his life:

Eric Liddell: Champion of Conviction (available from Netflix)

I recommend it to you. I went to bed thinking about his life — and how he truly had an intimate relationship with God. Something I see in some of you. Some of you so contemplate His Word, so that He does speak to you. You are still before Him, He does come to you, and then you share and bless us.

In this documentary, there were so many wonderful things. His intimate relationship with the Lord brought forth beautiful fruit — running to glorify Him, not to win — sensing God’s pleasure — dedicating himself to the children in the prison camp — loving his family. One sad, yet poignant story was how his young wife sensed his presence the moment he died, though she didn't know he died. (He died in that prison camp.) She was shocked when the letter came two weeks later — but then, realized that was the moment she sensed his presence.

In the Oscar winning movie, Chariots of Fire, Liddell’s life is contrasted with his friend Harold Abrahams'. If it has been a while since you've seen the movie, you might be blessed to rent it from the library or elsewhere. They certainly show the difference between making a good thing an idol and simply seeing it as a gift. There is a scene where Harold Abrahams is agonizing about the upcoming race and says:

“I have ten seconds to justify my existence — but will I?”

Then, in contrast, Abrahams watched Liddell run, and is amazed by his joy and his lack of angst.

“When I run I feel His pleasure,” Liddell famously said to his sister.

Running was a gift, not a god, not a way to justify His existence. It was God which gave him pleasure. His daughter, in the documentary, said he never prayed he would win, only that he would please God.

I’ve thought how many things this applies to — if motherhood is everything, if it “justifies our existence” our kids better be amazing. But if we mother to please God, we can “feel His pleasure” and leave the results to Him. I can apply it to writing — I’m sure there are areas you can apply it to as well.


A. What stands out to you from the above blog? Why?

B. Take one of the scriptural truths from the above two verses of "Be Still My Soul" and speak it to your soul (right now) to help you with either an idol of the heart or pain you are facing.


1. Read Psalm 107:23-32

A. What happened to the fishermen who went into the ships?

B. A storm at sea represents things that are simply beyond our control. Give one example of a storm beyond your control, a storm that shows your “littleness.”

C.  Describe the emotions of the men in Psalm 107:26-27.

Derek Kidner says the word which may be translated “wits” could also be “seamanship.” Sometimes all our skills and talents are useless in the face of a great storm. But then, and you see this phrase in 24 and 31, we can see “the wondrous works” of God. Wondrous works (like the storm) humble men, and wondrous works (like calming the storm) save them. This is the Gospel — we are so needy, yet so loved.

God still does do miracles. Sometimes, as one song says, “He calms the sea,” and sometimes, “He calms His child.”

D. In this case, what did the Lord do, according to verses 29-30?

E. What are we to do when God comes to us and rescues us in some way, according to verses 31-32?




Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?

Whether you are facing a  small storm or an enormous one,  it is vital you speak the truth to your soul. I began to change when I began speaking to my soul. Amazingly, I not only began to cross the river of grief, but  also I see how I am changing in other areas where I have been stuck my whole Christian life. There is power in speaking the truth to our souls.

I asked permission from one faithful and articulate woman on our blog if I could repeat a story she told when she faced a minor storm and spoke the truth to her soul. She is married to an unbeliever and often doesn't feel truly loved by him.

Here is her story:

My daughter and I watched “Pride and Prejudice”. In the closing scene, after they are married, Keira Knightly (who plays Elizabeth) asks him what he shall call her, say, when he is just indescribably happy; and he says:

“I shall call you Mrs. Darcy”.

He keeps repeating this, “Mrs. Darcy, Mrs. Darcy…” and each time he says it, he kisses her tenderly on her forehead, her cheeks…

As I was watching this I began feeling very sad that the way this was being portrayed, this tenderness, cherishing… is missing from my marriage. I thought, “Perhaps I shall never know this kind of tender love from a man.” The thought came to me that Jesus shows me this tender kind of love. In the past, I would usually turn to daydreaming about having that kind of man. But that doesn't really satisfy, because it’s not real. Jesus is real and He really has that tender, cherishing kind of love for me.

Terri [another terrific woman on the blog] said “If we shut God out, all we’re left with is our own thoughts and despair. It is by being honest with Him, and inviting Him into the situation, that He speaks the truth to us.”

2. Let’s speak to our souls:

A. What is either a heart idol or a situation of pain you are facing right now? Ask God to show you what to choose.

B. Speak the truth to your soul, using either Scripture or the lyrics based on Scripture like those from "Be Still My Soul."


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