The Habit of Silence
“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven… A time to be quiet and a time to speak.”
~ Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7 (NLT) ~
When was the last time you spent an hour in silence? Most people struggle to find just a few minutes of silence, let alone an entire hour.
Consider a typical day you might experience: You awake to the sound of your alarm, get up, and immediately turn on the radio or television to catch the news or just to have entertainment as you prepare for the day. Perhaps your morning ritual even includes going for a jog—wearing your iPod, of course.
On your drive to work, your radio blares even as you are surrounded by the encroaching sounds of a busy the street. Then, when you arrive at your workplace, you enter to the sound of other employees and customers carrying on conversations to the rhythm of cash registers and/or office equipment.
When you finally get home, you rush to throw supper together, then proceed to chase your children around until they are tucked in for the night. To cap off the evening, you collapse in front of the TV for some mindless viewing before going to bed yourself.
Unfortunately, this kind of day is far too common. Very few people take the time to enjoy even a few moments of silence, let alone an extended period. As a result, they miss out on the calming effect that silence can have on a person mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.
“Could it be that despite all our technological advances and heightened theological understanding, the one thing we’re in great need of is quiet, still attentiveness to the presence of God?” (Laura Harris)
Psalm 46 is packed full of imagery for what our lives are like. It talks about earthquakes, trembling mountains, and roaring ocean waves. It talks about nations being in uproar, kingdoms falling, and wars and battles throughout the earth.
And then in the midst of all that chaos, God says, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalms 46:10, NLT)! God calls us to be still—to be silent—in His presence. Why? As Keith Drury has written, “Silence is abstaining from sound in order to open our spiritual ears and listen more closely to the voice of God.” In other words, we cannot hear the voice of God when we are distracted by the chaos around us or are preoccupied with making noise ourselves.
In the classic book Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster explains, “Though silence sometimes involves the absence of speech, it always involves the act of listening.” Approaching God with humility and honour requires that we seek primarily to listen, eagerly receiving whatever God desires to share with us.
For most people, silence does not just happen. It is something that must be planned and scheduled into the day. For you, perhaps this means getting up a bit earlier to enjoy some silence while reading, praying, or sipping some coffee. Perhaps it means spending your lunch break sitting in your parked car or strolling through the park. Or maybe it means just leaving the radio off during a leisurely drive home.
Whatever it takes for you to enjoy a taste of silence, try it and reap the benefits. Be still and discover who God truly is. Once you begin to experience the richness of this spiritual habit, you´ll wonder why you ever allowed your life to become so noisy in the first place.