Have you ever thought about the importance of silence and solitude in your spiritual growth and formation? I come from a tradition and culture that places a high value on being busy and doing things for God, so much so, that taking time to sit quietly and enjoy the presence of God is often neglected.
I have discovered how to reshape and renew my heart through the practice of solitude and silence. It is not an easy discipline. Through this discipline I came to realize how noisy my world is, and how accustomed I had become to the surround noise and activity. I have also discovered how difficult it is to find a place where this noise does not invade my heart.
Silence makes some people feel uncomfortable, even anxious. I know people who must have some kind of noise in the room at all times; so this discipline is not for everyone. Silence and solitude, however, is more than just the absence of noise, or conversations with others. Even when I find a quiet place, my solitude is easily compromised by my preoccupation with the “to-do-list” for today, or the “should-have-done-list” from yesterday.
Silence is a quality of the heart! Abba Poemen, a Fifth Century Desert Father said,
“A man may seem to be silent, but if his heart is condemning others, he is babbling ceaselessly. But there may be another who talks from morning till night, and yet he is truly silent.”
Silence therefore, is not the goal, rather the means to an end – to glorify God and enjoy Him forever!
Noise, whether it comes from the outside world, or from within our heart, can rob us of one of one of the most precious and powerful experiences of our lives – enjoying communion with the Father. Noise also keeps us from reflecting honestly on who we are, and where we are in relation to God and others. Sometimes, noise gives us a false sense security, because if we’re active, achieving something, moving forward, and getting things done, we must be okay.
The essence of silence and solitude is found in the words of Psalms 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God.” You don’t have to spend the day in silence in order to “be still and know.” Yet, how often is there enough silence in our lives to really hear God? When do we take time to be still? We truly “hear” God when we are intentionally listening – and, being still precedes listening. The “peace that passes all understanding” (Phil. 4:7) often comes when we are willing to block out the noise of the world, and really listen.
Jesus set the example for us. He often left His disciples and His followers to be alone with His Father. (Matthew 14:23; Luke 9:18; John 6:15) If it was important for Jesus, don’t you think it is important for us? Yet, how many of us practice silence and solitude? How many of us know what it means to be unhurried, quiet, and to truly rest in His presence?