Most people, regardless of their age, are afraid of being alone. Silence makes a lot of us feel uncomfortable and stillness frightens us. They both remind us of our fear of being alone. This fear drives us to create noise and distractions.
We keep up a constant stream of words, even if our words are simply empty chatter. We power up the CD player, radio or TV in our homes as background noise, protection against the emptiness of silence. We wake up to background noise, we drive to it, we exercise with it, we relax with it and we go to sleep with it.
We strap radios around our waists or fit them over our ears so that if no-one else is around, at least we are not condemned to the discomfort of silence and stillness. Armed with an endless supply of TV channels, music CDs and computer games, we can safely ward off any empty moment.
Another reason we dislike silence is that it makes us feel so helpless. We are so used to relying on words to manage and control others. If we are silent, who will take control? If we are not always doing something, how will anything get done?
“Be still, and know that I am God” – Psalm 46:10 (NIV)
The tongue is a powerful weapon of manipulation. A frantic stream of words flows from us because we are constantly adjusting our public image. We talk so as to correct what other people see in us. If you have done something you are worried others might misunderstand and you discover they know about it, you’ll be very tempted to straighten them out and to help them understand your actions.
The first part of Psalm 46:10 includes these eight little words: Be still, and know that I am God—but these words, for all their simplicity, totally challenge most of our lifestyles and answer our questions. These words tell us that no matter what, God is with us and God is in control. In the hurly-burly of life, we might not notice it, but in silence and stillness, we hear and learn it again.
In essence, they stipulate that you are not alone. God is always with you. He is in control. He will straighten out any misunderstandings others have about you. He is good and will care for you all the time. But in order for him to do all this for you, you must trust him. Silence and stillness are intimately related to trust.
Make Silence a Part of Your Life
How can you incorporate silence and stillness into very busy days?
- Take advantage of the ‘little silences’ that fill your day. This silence of those early-morning moments in bed before the family gets going. Those late-evening moments after everyone has retired. The silence of the morning’s first cup of coffee. The silence in the car as you drive to work. Slip outside just before bed and taste the silence of the night. There you can be quiet and alone with God.
- Find or develop a ‘quiet place’ designed for silence. It can be anywhere. After identifying it, visit it often and be alone with God.
- Work on taming your tongue. Speak only when you have something to say. Practise the art of speaking positively. Make a resolution to remain silent whenever you cannot say something positive.
- Try to live one entire day without saying anything at all. Try to find new ways to relate to others that don’t rely on words.
- Pick a quiet time when you can get away alone for three or four hours. Spend this time quietly with God.
Loneliness and noise are not your only choices. Learn to use silence and cultivate and inner stillness that sets you free from loneliness and fear. Practise listening to God. You’ll quickly come to know you’ll never be alone again.
Faith & Friends, October 2000