Friday, March 4, 2016

Silence and Solitude

Silence and Solitude
You are shouting so loud I can’t hear you. This seems to be the sound of today in the harsh reality of traffic jams, blaring music, television and radio. We have the attention span of seconds, or of a gnat. “Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for greater numbers of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.” (Celebration of Discipline: the Path to Spiritual Growth by Richard Foster).

In his profound work, Intimacy with the Almighty, Chuck Swindoll speaks of the spiritual disciplines of Simplicity, silence, solitude and surrender. It is the voluntary withdrawal from the Madding Crowd to find quiet and stillness.  The Psalms tell us to lie down beside the still waters (Ps 23:2) and “to be still and know that I am God” Ps 46:10. But we seem to stampede past these places today. Can we pause too; with God’s help and modeling.  Jesus gave us structure to the discipline. In wilderness and desert He sought His Father in Matthew 4. In Matt 14 He headed to the mountains to pray. Mark 1:25 and Luke 4:42 tell us that Jesus went early to a solitary place to pray.  Corrie Ten Boom, the German survivor of the Holocaust, told of the secret place, the closet or desert place to seek God.  Noise and word and frenzied schedules dull our senses, closing our ears to His still small voice as Elijah finally found in 1 Kings 19:11 after running from Jezebel
Zephaniah 1:7 says, “Be silent in the presence of the Lord God, for the day of the Lord is at hand.”  Yes, the Prophet Habakkuk 2:20 reminds us, “But the Lord is in his holy temple. Let the earth keep silence before Him.” Again, Zechariah 2:13 reminds us, “Be silent, all flesh, before the Lord, for He is aroused from His holy habitation.” These are not often read passages in this activity-addicted world. What value is it? The Prophet Isaiah in the 30th chapter gives us powerful counsel. “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.” Do we understand this ancient truth that our salvation and strength are in quietness and rest?  Jeremiah the Prophet in Lamentations 3:26 tells us, “it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” God is telling us that we must listen to His still, small voice continuously. Why? Isaiah 30:21 goes on to say, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”  God is saying, that He is speaking always and we must listen to stay on the path and be in His will.

Where do you go to find silence and solitude. Jonathan Edwards found it in fields and forests. Suzanna Wesley, with 13 children, found it by putting her apron over her head. I find it in the basement in the early morning for devotions, or anywhere in God’s awesome creation where there are no people. A favorite place is Pier’s Gorge, a torrential rapids on the Menomonee River in Upper Michigan, or in the Rocky Mountains of Montana.  Find your secret places.

Seek the will of the Lord in silence and solitude? There is a time to be silent the writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us, or as James tells us, be silent and listen for the tongue can sink ships and start forest fires. Listening is hard and a radical discipline as Dallas Willard refers to it.  In his book, People Are Dying To Be Heard, my friend and author/speaker Ben Merens says it well. “Sometimes the best way to have effective communication is to allow for silence between the words. Don’t fear silence in your conversations. Embrace it.”

Well, I’ve said a mouthful, so now it’s time to be silent until next week.


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