Sympathetic Nervous System: Be Still
Today I took my first midterm for Psychology 101, which covered the different divisions of the nervous system. As the psychology nerd that I am, I can tell you this: the peripheral nerve system contains the autonomic nerve system which contains the sympathetic nerve system, also considered the “fight or flight” reaction. When you fear danger, you tend to do one of two things: face the problem head on, or run from it. Or, if you’re watching a scary movie, jump up in your seat.
The juxtaposition of learning this concept and a focusing the phrase “be still” from church services, the song by The Fray, and my pastor’s blog, is an interesting one. When I have bouts of anxiety, I tend to have stomach cramps and a racing heartbeat (my sympathetic nervous system is not so sympathetic). I tend to stress out over things, fear the unknown, and blindly grasp for control. During these times, I have to ask myself: am I trusting God’s plan or am I too busy worrying about my own?
God reminds us time and time again in the Bible to be still and trust in Him, saying 365 times to not fear. Exodus 4:14 says “The Lord will fight for you while you stay still.” If we only take a moment to let our parasympathetic nervous system kick in, take a moment to breathe and sit and be still, God has the rest covered. All we have to do is sit back, basking in His glory and feeling fulfilled by His grace. By remembering all of the times when His plan was better than that of our own, we can have fuel for faith for the future.
Amidst the instability of everyday life and temporary situations, God’s reliability is the one thing we can always count on to stay the same. Psalm 62:5-6 puts it this way: “Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken.” God never has and never will let us down, and He’s capable of greater things than we could ever be. He’s the safety and control we yearn for in ourselves, and why we often finds ourselves lost in a state of fight or flight. By waiting on God, we gain strength to propel forward. Isaiah 40:31 tells us that “They who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint.” By being still, we rest up and have the energy to go forward. We’re in a race but we’re on God’s shoulders.
God touched me with the words “be still” at church this past Sunday. He used the band and The Fray’s song “Be Still” to let me know that if terror falls upon my bed and sleep no longer comes, I must remember all of God’s words, be still, and have faith in that which I know to be true in Him. No matter the darkness that comes about me, and no matter how much I want to run, I need only be still. Instead of fight or flight, let’s freeze.