Noise and Fear. These seem to be two major themes God is teaching me about and revealing truths about to me over the past couple of years.
“When there is no time for being there is no time for listening. I will never understand the silent dying of the green pie-apple tree if I do not slow down and listen to what the Spirit is telling me, telling me of the death of trees, the death of planets, of people, and what all these deaths mean in the light of love of the Creator who brought them all into being; who brought me into being; and you.” – Madeleine L’Engle
We cannot abide in Christ if we are always in a hurry and can never find stillness. We cannot abide in Christ if our world is so noise that we cannot sit in silence and hear the Holy Spirit. We cannot abide in Christ if we are never able to find solitude. We cannot abide in Christ if we are never able to rest. It is through abiding in Christ we are able to unearth who we truly are and who God created us to be.
Without ceasing the busy-ness of life and quieting our minds, we cannot hear the Holy Spirit. There is plenty of time for movement, but in order for us to give of ourselves in serving others we must make room in quiet and stillness for God to pour into us. It is only from the overflow that we can serve others without finding ourselves battling burn out and in an unhealthy place spiritually and possibly physically.
I visited a friend’s church for their Christmas Eve service. The pastor’s message was such a beautiful reminder of why we need to discern what noise we are allowing in our lives. He talked about the shepherds in the Christmas story and how the job of a shepherd at night was to keep watch. Their night watch was filled with silence. “Watching the sheep forces out the kingdom of noise and forces you to meditate on this (God’s) kingdom.” (Geoff Evans)
What if the shepherds that God chose for the angels to announce the birth of Christ to were too busy with the noise of the world? Think of what they would have missed. Think of all we might be missing because of all the noise that bombards us in our lives.
Silence is the antithesis of our culture today. The world we live in hates silence which should be a very big indicator of how much we should practice it.
In The Good and Beautiful God: Falling in Love with the God Jesus Knows by James Bryan Smith he quotes Malcom Muggeridge: “We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence…We need silence to be able to touch should. The essential thing is not what we say, but what God says to use and through us.”
Exodus 14:14 is one of my favorite verses. Moses tells the Israelites, “The Lord will fight for you, you have only to be silent.” (ESV)
The Messianic Jewish Tree of Life version puts it this way, “Adonai will fight for you, while you hold your peace.”
It reminds me that too often we grumble and worry instead of listening for God in the moment. In the very next verse God says to Moses “Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward….” Then he tells Moses to lift up his staff and the sea will part.
Are we too busy wading through the noise and focusing on the past that we miss what the Holy Spirit is trying to teach us and show us in the present moment? Is the noise of what might happen in the future keeping us from seeing the holy in the here and now?
We need to practice silence, stillness, solitude, and Sabbath.
In times of silence, we learn to still our thoughts so we can listen for God. This is not just outer silence. It is also inner silence. Calming our mind so it is fully present to God. Training the mind to release all the thoughts that bombard us takes practice, but it is possible. Learning to sit in silence may be uncomfortable at first. Our spirit will not know what to do with it so starting slow can be helpful.
Solitude helps us to simply be. When we are alone with God we do not have to hide any of our true self. We aren’t tempted to put on the mask of our ego or personality to be what we think others want us to be.
How often do we stop just to be still besides when we go to bed at night? How often do we find ourselves rushing and in a hurry? Stillness is not just stilling our bodies from movement, but also our hearts from feeling the need to hurry. C.S. Lewis said “For the present is the point at which time touches eternity.” If we are hurrying and constantly on the go, we are never able to view life from an eternal perspective.
Psalm 46:10 tells us “Be still and know that I am God.” When we read that scripture, most of us think we should be still and settle down, but being still can also mean to stop striving. Our pride says we have to do it on our own, but this only causes resistance. When we surrender our pride of needing to do it on our own, we are able to be still and allow God to fill us.
We as a culture desperately need to learn to practice Sabbath. Sabbath comes from the Hebrew word Shabbat. Shabbat means “to stop,” but it can mean delight. As we cultivate the practice of Sabbath we are surrendering our autonomy reminding us that all we have and are is from God. It teaches us to rest in Christ all the other days of the week.
When we practice silence, solitude, stillness, and Sabbath, we are able to use the gifts and talents God has given us to serve others. We are able to be aware of our thoughts and the noise that bombards us and surrender to God and the present moment taking all thoughts captive for Christ. This is where we find the peace that passes all understanding.