“For God alone my soul waits in silence;
from him comes my salvation.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.”
When you were growing up did a parent or teacher ever say to you, “God gave you two ears and one mouth so you should listen twice as much as you talk?” In most areas of life we would agree with the wisdom in that statement. At work we listen to our bosses, mentors, coworkers, and clients. In friendship we listen as our friends share about the important things in their lives. In conflict we try to listen well to the other side of the argument in order to bring restoration. We strive to listen actively to our children, spouses, family members, or roommates as they share their days with us. Yet one relationship in which we are often not taught how to listen is in our relationship with God. What does it mean to listen to Him? For centuries the church knew the answer was waiting for God in silence and solitude. This week we’ll look at two practices that are so connected, they’re often used interchangeably.
our need for silence
Our world is saturated with sensory overload. Most Americans have at least two televisions per household. We have near-constant access to computers or tablets, and we walk around with the Internet in our pockets on our smartphones. Things like taking a walk or going for a drive used to be times to embrace silence and to clear your mind. Now these moments are vulnerable to phone calls, texting, working remotely, and all kinds of entertainment distractions.
Learning to embrace silence helps us get past all this and learn to listen to God.
Most of us haven’t grown up learning the practice of silence. There was a time when mainline churches started the service with silence so the congregants could ready their hearts for worship. Now, in many churches, we start conversations with friends in the lobby and enter a worship service with loud music playing. With this heightened level of noise and stimulation, the concept of silence would seem out of place in many of our churches today.
listening to God
In the same way that human relationships require serious reflection and time without distraction, our relationship with God requires a similar kind of maintenance. Scripture tells us to spend time in silence in order to listen to God.
For God alone, O my Soul, wait in silence,
for my hope is from him.
(Psalm 62:5 esv)
When we follow the model the psalmist David provides and we wait in silence before the Lord, we will also find hope. When we stop to listen to God, we understand His nearness. We are also made aware of the sin that stands between us and we are able to confess sins and walk anew in a repaired relationship.
If silence is a new spiritual discipline for you, be aware that it will be uncomfortable. Our minds and bodies are made for doing, so the flesh rails against the idea of being silent before God. The first time you try being silent before the Lord, you shouldn’t do anything drastic like jump into a week-long silent retreat. Give yourself small windows of silence, five minutes, then ten, then fifteen, and so on, until you are able to spend more and more time in this quiet posture before the Lord. Eventually silence and listening to God will become an important part of how you connect with Him.