Inner stillness has always been a huge challenge for me. So when the writings of Anthony Bloom came into my experience, I read and reread his chapter on managing time. What does that have to do with inner stillness? A great deal, I found out.
That’s because time is usually the cause of our “inner tension” and “inner agitation” (Beginning to Pray 89). It constantly pushes at us, dragging us forward in anticipation of future events or in dread or preparation for what is to come. This frantic desire to fix or prevent what could happen gives us no peace. Jesus directly rejects such self-effort when he tells us not to allow our focus to be dominated by our physical existence—what we will eat or will drink or will wear (Matt. 6:25). Life is more than these things, Jesus assures us.
Once, when they got caught in a boat in a storm, the disciples started fearing for their future. But Jesus slept on, even as the waves kept washing into their boat, gradually filling it. When they were nearly swamped, the disciples finally turned to Jesus, yelling frantically, “Master, carest thou not that we perish” (KJ Mark 4:35-41)? Anthony Bloom described what happened in this way: “At first the apostles work hard and hopefully in order to survive. Then at a certain moment they lose heart, and the storm that was outside comes inside—the storm is within them too. Anguish, death no longer simply circle round, they come inside. (Beginning to Pray 90)
And isn’t that what happens to us? When we focus on what will happen or might happen or could happen, we let the storm inside. And our faith founders. After Jesus had stilled the wind and the waves, he said to them [and to us], “Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?”
As Bloom wrote, when we silence our lips, when we silence our emotions, when we silence our body, the silence moves into our mind and heart (94). The storm is no longer within us. It may be outside, but it can’t get in. This inner stillness is the home of faith. But such stillness doesn’t store up. It must be replenished every day. (Living Large, chapter 51)