My world is filled with beautiful noise. Wind and whispers; bird song and babies crying; music and a man’s beloved voice. In the midst of this blessed clamor, I sometimes long for silence. Admittedly there are few places to go where there is utter silence, but what I am seeking is a silence of spirit, an inner quiet where God is given the space and time to impress His loving directives on my waiting heart.
God reveals the benefits of quietude in His presence. “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.’” (Isaiah 30:15 NIV) Solitude and silence need to be carved out from the demands of life if I am to truly know salvation and strength found in God.
When a peaceful interlude of time and place is finally found in my outer world, then I am faced with the inner noise of my own thoughts, concerns, and emotions. It takes time for my busy brain to settle down, to rest, to focus on God and not on myself. I picture my mind and spirit as an empty bowl waiting to be filled with whatever God’s Spirit has for me. This is not a time of specific prayer or intercession, it is a silent interlude, creating space for God’s activity rather than my own.
In her book, Invitation to Solitude and Silence, Ruth Haley Barton writes, “In solitude God begins to free us from our bondage to human expectations, for there we experience God as our ultimate reality — the One in whom we live and move and have our being.” There is a place for corporate prayer, even corporate meditation, but solitude provides the silence necessary for God to speak to our souls.
There is no formula for how God speaks into the silence I offer up to Him. He does not speak in words, but more in impressions, expressing Himself in that mysterious way which defies description. Most often the silence fills with His loving presence, then I realize it is all I need. I may have couched the silence with worries and needs, but when I relinquish those in favor of time solely spent with Him, I come away settled and strengthened.
Sometimes in those periods of silent meditation and listening, revelation of my own sin and inadequacy confronts me. The noise of life distracts me away from what I need to deal with in my inner life. The ultimately beneficial risk of silence before God is that He will gently put His finger on what needs to be addressed, then expect me to deal with it. I may squirm under conviction but I have learned to trust in God’s direction, though it means humbly submitting and doing the hard personal work.
In an attitude of grateful expectancy I wait quietly for His presence to warm my inner world. Silence and solitude open the door for He who loves me most to give me what I cannot find myself.
“Be still and know that I am God –” (Ps. 46:10)