Steps to Finding and Creating Silence
I have been on three-day retreats of complete silence. It’s a wonderful experience! I’ve been in church services where the words were taken from me and there is simply silence as we wait for God. I have sat with grieving friends and family where silence is the only comforter.
Yet I still get caught in the noisy activity of my world. I still let the clutter of noise overwhelm the voice of God. Yet I long to find God in the silence. Here are a few of the things that I do:
1. Try to find specific times for silence.
One thing I’ve learned is that I am really programmed for noise. It’s usually best if I find silence in a place I don’t usually work. A walk in the woods is great – but it’s not always practical. In our house, the best place for silence is the living room. We rarely use it except for company and it is usually free from the clutter of daily living. My office is the worst place for silence. It’s cluttered with the work I have left undone, so it’s pretty tough to settle my heart and my mind.
2. Learn to anticipate distractions.
I try not to feel guilty and simply acknowledge that finding a place of silence is tough for me. I often have a pen and paper with me when I’m spending time alone with God. The first fifteen minutes are often filled with many thoughts of what I ‘have to remember to do’ that day. If I don’t write them down they will continue to distract me throughout my quiet time.
3. Learn to enjoy the silence.
I’m not all that patient. I figure that if I have given God 30 minutes to show up, he should be on time. But you know what? God isn’t working on my time line. He is waiting for me to come to him without the clutter I bring to the meeting. I’m learning to appreciate the silence even if God doesn’t reveal himself in any significant way. It’s nice just to sit alone with him.
When I first left my job as youth pastor in anticipation of where God was to lead me next, I spent each Thursday in the basement of a friend’s church. He was the only one who knew I was down there so I had many uninterrupted hours together with God. I would often lie facedown on the floor before God and wait for him to speak in the silence. And I would often fall asleep.
At first I was troubled by my falling asleep and not being awake to ‘listen’ at all times. But God encouraged me that he enjoyed my time with him and that, if I was tired, I should not be anxious about sleeping. We would just continue on when I awoke. Or sometimes he would just encourage me in my sleep in a variety of ways.
4. Try to wait for others when they are in prayer or in thought.
Like I said, I don’t really like the silent pauses in corporate prayer
– it makes me feel that people aren’t participating. But I am learning to deal with the silence. I try not to be too anxious to end a time of quiet because I don’t know what God is revealing to my brother or sister. Sometimes it is these times of silence that allow God to break through. I try to give God an opportunity to speak. Then I try to take time to ask what people hear God speaking to them in the quiet. I’m often surprised when I hear the things God is saying to his people.
5. Try to make time for silence in unusual times and places.
How instinctive to get in the car and turn up the radio (or turn it down if Gayle’s been driving)! But it doesn’t have to be that way. Before I leave on a trip, I rush around to get the right CDs to listen to. But lately I’ve been turning off the CD player, leaving the radio alone and driving in silence. It gives me a significant time in which to enjoy the Lord’s presence, think about my day and the moments or hours that flow through my fingers. Sometimes a small time of disruption from the normal pattern of life gives God the opportunity to speak.
Take a break from worship music. Learn to love and worship Jesus in the quiet. He is there too.
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