Silence is golden, but most people enjoy noise. Some are literally addicted to noise. They’re walking through a room and automatically turn on the TV just to hear noise. We are the most urban, noise-polluted generation in history, and as a result, we’re less frequently alone with our own thoughts, and we’re seldom hearing God’s voice.
It’s almost as if silence were a negative thing. We think of being alone also as negative, such as isolation or solitary confinement. But can’t solitude also be positive? In our spiritual lives, both silence and solitude can be incredibly positive.
Solitude and silence are the disciplines of voluntarily and temporarily withdrawing to privacy, and withholding speech for spiritual purposes.
Jesus practiced both silence and solitude. In Matthew 14:23, he went by himself to pray. Mark 1:35 tells us, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” In Luke 4:42, we see him again going away from the crowds to a solitary place. Moses in the Old Testament and Paul in the New Testament were both transformed through years of isolation as well.
Although most of us have an aversion to quiet and an uneasiness in being alone, every believer should learn the twin disciplines of silence and solitude for these three reasons: to deepen our worship of God, to demonstrate our faith in God, and to direct our speech toward God.
Reason 1: We seek silence and solitude to deepen our worship of God.
Donald Whitney, in Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, says, “The worship of God does not always require words, sounds, or actions. Sometimes worship consists of a God-focused stillness and hush.” Habakkuk 2:20 says, “But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.”
Zephaniah 1:7 says, “Be silent before the Sovereign Lord, for the day of the Lord is near. The Lord has prepared a sacrifice; he has consecrated those he has invited.”
There are times to speak and times to simply be still and behold him in silence. Sometimes, if we’re fully focused on God, mere words can’t even express our joy and love of him. There is always a place for wordless worship.
Reason 2: We seek silence and solitude to demonstrate our faith in God.
Sometimes silence and solitude can be an expression of faith, just as a quiet absence of anxiety can be an expression of faith. David said, “My soul waits in silence for God only; from him is my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be greatly shaken.”
Isaiah 30:15 says, “This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: ‘In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength…'” A quiet absence of anxiety and a season of silence can be an expression of faith.
Reason 3: We seek silence and solitude to direct our speech toward God.
Silence and solitude can teach us to control our tongues. “A truly wise person uses few words; a person with understanding is even-tempered. Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent; with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent.” (Proverbs 17:27-28)
James 1:19 tells us to be quick to hear and slow to speak. Listening is more important than talking.
The skills of observation and listening are also sharpened in those who practice silence and solitude so that when they do speak, there is more of a freshness and depth to their words.
I have a friend who says very little when we’re together in a group setting, but when he does speak, everybody leans in and listens because his words are fresh and meaningful. Practicing silence and solitude helps us to control our tongues and to be more Christ-like.
Keep these three goals in mind this week, and try to give yourself a few solitary moments to quiet your cell phone and focus on God alone. You might be surprised at what you discover through even a short time of solitude and silence as you seek him.
Check out an earlier podcast by Fred here.