Seeking Silence

Too often these days, maybe even constantly, the sounds of busyness overwhelm our attention. Yet, we often don’t even notice it’s happening.

Not only have most of us forgotten what quiet sounds like, many no longer desire it or even think it’s possible to enjoy. How often have you heard, or maybe even said yourself, something like, “I have to have music or the TV on” or “It’s just too quiet” or “I can’t sleep without noise”?

So many of us have become accustomed to life’s noises, so much so that the idea of being alone with our own thoughts is undesirable at best and anxiety producing at worst.

Yet, science backs the notion that silence is good for us.

  1. Silence relieves stress and tension.
  2. Silence replenishes our mental resources.
  3. Silence helps us tap into our brain’s default mode network.
  4. Silence can regenerate brain cells.

“In a loud and distracting world, finding pockets of stillness can benefit your brain and body.” (Why Silence is Good for Your Brain)

Saying “I can’t stand quiet” or some version of this only verifies that you’re suffering from this “modern plague.” The symptoms?

  • Constantly distracted
  • Mental fatigue
  • Struggle to focus
  • Struggle to solve problems
  • Struggle to come up with new ideas.

If you’re still not convinced you suffer from this malady, consider that Jesus regularly sought solitude.

“But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.” (Luke 5:16)

The apostles gathered together with Jesus; and they reported to Him all that they had done and taught. And He said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.’ (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.) They went away in the boat to a secluded place by themselves.” (Mark 6:30-32)

It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God.” (Luke 6:12)

Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side to Bethsaida, while He Himself was sending the crowd away. After bidding them farewell, He left for the mountain to pray.” (Mark 6:45-46)

If the Son of God needed peace and quiet, and he lived in a less noisy culture in many ways than we do, isn’t it likely we need peace and quiet too?

Pursuing Encouragement Through Fellowship

As an introvert, spending time alone comes quite easily for me. As a writer, aloneness is often required for productivity. Even though my career and my personality promote solitude, and I really do like the peace and quiet, I cannot escape the need for regular connection. If I go too long with out it, which happens periodically, I become discouraged and even depressed almost without realizing it’s happening.

Everyone needs connection, whether they admit – or realize – it or not; in fact, it’s one of the primary ways God encourages believers. We’ve already talked about how He encourages through Scripture and through His Holy Spirit. Let’s now look at the role fellowship with other believers plays in encouragement.

Fellowship

Encouragement Through Fellowship

Scripture says quite a lot about encouragement, and much of it focuses in on the encouragement received through fellowship. For example, encouragement through fellowship…

  • Promotes watchfulness as Jesus’ return nears. (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 & Hebrews 10:25)
  • Defeats selfishness as we seek to build others up. (Romans 15:1-2)
  • Creates unity among believers. (Romans 15:5-6)
  • Provides opportunity to use spiritual gifts. (Romans 12:6-7)
  • Glorifies God. (Romans 12:8-9)

While I believe each of these to be accurate simply because I trust the inerrancy of God’s word, experiencing encouragement in action takes this knowledge to, well, a more encouraging level.

Barnabas’ Example

A man in the early church named Joseph was given the nickname Barnabus.

Barnabas

Barnabas encouraged Paul by helping him gain acceptance into the church even after he persecuted it (Acts 9:27). Barnabas also encouraged Mark by helping him gain a second chance after serious failure (Acts 13:13 & Acts 15:39).

While I love how Barbabas encouraged others by helping them move forward after serious mistakes, I love even more that he was willing to take a back seat to others. When others give of themselves for our benefits, we are encouraged. When they put their reputation on the line, that usually provides motivation for doing our best.

If you look at the list above for how believers receive encouragement through fellowship, it’s not hard to see how Barnabas lived out each of them. And I’m pretty sure, based on the Barnabas’ in my own life and that I’ve watched in the lives of others, that he not only encouraged those he was directly involved with but also anyone who witnessed him in action. Encouragement has a tremendous ripple affect after all.

So even though spending time alone comes quite naturally for me and in fact energizes me in ways that extroverts cannot understand, I also know that being with others is essential for my spiritual health. And while I read Scripture that tells me how and why encouragement comes through others, it’s the actual encouragement in action that solidifies my belief in this truth.

DISCUSSION: How have you witnessed encouragement in action through the lives of other believers?

Amplifying Silence

7-30-13 sshhSince writing The Discipline of Silence, Part I and Part II, the topic continually comes up in conversation. But instead of hearing a desire for more silence, I hear how people “can’t” stand silence and how literal silence really isn’t possible anyway. These comments seem to be saying, “Why bother?”

Few people can ever truly experience total “absence of sound,” the definition of silence. So, after several of these “silence” conversations, I realized that taking time to clarify silence a bit more might help address the “Why bother?” implication.

Clarifying Silence

My favorite times of silence are bike rides, running, hiking, kayaking, and mornings on my deck. These times are not absent of sound, but they are peaceful and quiet.

Essentially, when someone develops a discipline of silence, he/she really learns to appreciate peace and quiet along with the benefits of regularly pending time there. Spending time in peace and quiet involves reducing or eliminating unnatural sounds so that natural sounds (breathing, birds, footsteps, wind, etc.) are mostly what’s heard.

In other words, a discipline of silence means intentionally choosing not to bring noise into the equation. It means choosing to not talk, play music or watch television. It means not introducing unnecessary sounds (keeping certain things silent) and instead existing in a quiet and peaceful arena.

Realizing that the goal in a discipline of silence is really peace and quiet, not literal silence, helps understand how to achieve a true discipline of silence.

A discipline of silence allows you to think and to process life. Developing a discipline of silence means making a regular practice of simply existing with the natural sounds of life. It involves thoughts being allowed to move freely without little outside influence.

Amplifying Silence1-21-13 Be still

When Rick at Planned Peasanthood and I decided to simultaneously post on the discipline of silence, my objective was to show the value of the discipline. I now realize (mostly after reading Rick’s posts) that my own discipline of silence has developed into more of an active quiet rather than a true discipline of silence.

Let me explain. My life exists at a slower pace and quieter volume than that of most people. Outside of “TV time,” which is minimal, my house is generally quiet. Sure, there’s the sounds of life such as my oldest playing piano or French horn or my youngest moving from one activity to another, but we don’t have the radio or television on “for noise.”

I spend much of my time in my office or kitchen or on my deck writing, researching or studying, and I do so in relative quiet. But, I realized that I am always doing something during quiet times, more like quiet activity than disciplined silence.

I’m often writing, reading or talking, but rarely just sitting and allowing my thoughts and my body to just be still. In that, my own discipline of silence requires growth.

Instead of continually taking in and then regurgitating information, I need to spend time processing. I need to consider how the information I encounters fits into my life and, more importantly, I need to weigh it against the Truth of God’s Word.

Amplifying silence means taking time to “Let be and be still…” as suggested by the Amplified Version of Psalm 46:10. Seeing this verse in a variety of versions helps, so check out the black and white graphic in this post (click on the graphic to enlarge it).

The depth of this verse’s meaning truly gets at the goal of a discipline of silence: Deliberately choosing to think and to process life on a regular basis in as peaceful and as quiet of an atmosphere as possible. Just existing in stillness and letting all else simply be without you for a while. Take time to weigh your own discipline of silence (or lack thereof) against the truth in this Psalm.

DISCUSSION: How does Psalm 46:10 help in encourage you to amplify the discipline of silence in your life?