The Discipline of Silence, Part II

This series on The Discipline of Silence coincides with another series being posted by my good friend, Rick, at Planned Peasanthood. Please take time to read Rick’s two posts thus far in the series, Quiet on the Set – Discipline of Silence, Part I and Discipline of Silence, Part II – It’s Golden. Rick & I have “talked” extensively about this topic and felt that covering the topic of silence at the same time would provide a unique understanding of the role silence can play. Rick & I come from very different backgrounds, yet the Holy Spirit has weaved our perspectives together in a way that only He can.


The Discipline of Silence, Part I painted a picture of how our culture seems to work against silence and to instead push for almost constant noise and distraction. And it’s succeeding too.

While silence isn’t always golden, most people live in a silent-deficient state. Regular silence holds tremendous value, and building regular interludes into life provides an important tool for growth.

The Value of Silence

Scripture extols the importance of silence. For example, we see the value of knowing when to wait in silence in Genesis 24:21, and we realize from Elisha in 2 Kings 2:3-5 that some things need to remain unspoken.

But as always, the best example comes from Jesus. Jesus’ regular practice of silence teaches us that silence…

  1. Prepares us for trials. Jesus spent 40 days and 40 nights alone in the wilderness before Satan tempted Him (Matthew 4:1-2). Chances are good He spent that time talking and listening to His Heavenly Father.
  2. Helps us make wise choices. Before choosing His disciples, Jesus spent a night alone in prayer (Luke 6:12-13). He bathed one of the biggest decisions of His life, choosing those who would spread the Gospel, in prayerful solitude.
  3. Provides space to process emotions. As soon as Jesus heard about John the Baptist’s death, he went to be alone (Matthew 14:13). Even Jesus needed space to process emotions.
  4. Helps us recharge. After preaching to and miraculously feeding over 5,000 people, Jesus again went away to be alone (Matthew 14:23). He expended a tremendous amount of physical, emotional and spiritual energy and needed to recharge.
  5. Should be a habit. Scripture tells us that “Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer” (Luke 5:16). In other words, quiet time was a habit for Jesus.
  6. Should sometimes include others. Jesus took his closest disciples with him for the transfiguration, which took place in a place of solitude (Matthew 17:1). While not a completely silent event, it was private and far removed from busyness and noise.

Jesus spent most of His silent times in prayer, which tells us that silence really means an aloneness allowing for connection with the Father. It means finding quiet space away from the busyness of life to focus on the deep part of ourselves that connects with our Creator.

8-1-13 silenceInterlude (Selah)

Scripture provides another example that speaks profoundly about the importance of silence and also helps direct our silence. To help understand this, please take a few minutes to read Psalm 46 and Psalm 62.

When you read through these Psalms and came to the “Interlude” or the word “Selah,” what did you do? Like most people, as I so often have in the past, you likely moved on to the next verse without much thought. Yet, that’s quite the opposite of what the words indicate.

The Amplified version gives insight into “Interlude” and “Selah” by parenthetically indicating a time to “pause and calmly think” of what you just read.

Taking time to “pause and calmly think” as indicated in many Psalms provides a much-needed reminder of the need to stop and spend time in silence, which is really the only way to “pause and calmly think” that works.

Silence as Legend

“Soon silence will have passed into legend. Man has turned his back on silence. Day after day he invents machines and devices that increase noise and distract humanity from the essence of life, contemplation, meditation… tooting, howling, screeching, booming, crashing, whistling, grinding, and trilling bolster his ego. His anxiety subsides. His inhuman void spreads monstrously like a gray vegetation.” (Jean Arp)

Silence provides a way to truly connect with the information we receive in uncountable ways coming at us seemingly every minute of every day. Unfortunately, many people have grown uncomfortable with silence. In fact, many attempt to fill silence, no matter how short, with some sort of activity or meaningless words (”How about that weather?”) just to fill the void. Silence is passing into legend, being steadily replaced by noisy distractions.

As Jesus exemplified and the Psalms encourage, silence gives way to focus inwardly that helps process our lives in meaningful ways and helps ward off the numbness that noisy lives seem to create. Perhaps time spent in silence to prepare for trials, make wise choices, process emotions and recharge would eliminate much of the overload and burnout plaguing us and the ones we love.

Perhaps a habit of silence, mostly alone but sometimes with others, could transform our culture into one of less violence and more meaningful connection. Maybe, a culture-wide discipline of silence could be the answer that so many – from governments to marriages to parents to individuals – seek as they find themselves drowning in the busyness and noise of life.

DISCUSSION: What role does a habit of silence play in your life? What value do you see in regular times of silence?

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16 Replies to “The Discipline of Silence, Part II”

  1. The key you are hitting on here is indeed the habit – the discipline – of silence. Of resting in solitude and listening for God to speak.

    I place a high value on quiet time in large part because there is so little of it here to be had, not just where I live but in our world – you might have gathered that 🙂

    1. Yeah, I sort of gathered that. I am learning to tweak my quiet times… and I didn't realize I needed to before we started this series. As always, God has a growth lesson in what I'm writing and reading. THIS is the part that both of those parts of me (reading & writing) play in the silence I need in my life.

  2. Reading these two messages certainly encourages a SELAH moment. I love how he addressed the meaning and purpose of SELAH. It should be a bigger part of our daily life: We need more SELAH moments!

  3. I have been reading these posts on silence with interest. I find after spending the week in the semi where my husband needs the radio blasting all day I enjoy the silence I often have in the house while he is outside. As soon as he comes in he wants something on. I don't judge him for it, I have been in that same place. But today I enjoyed quiet time, though Rick would say it was not silence since I had my Bible and devotional, while he slept in. I enjoyed reading then pausing to see how what I read applied to me and the finally writing in my journal.
    Indeed our world does not value silence. I always heard it was golden when we did not respond to something or someone. But I am finding it golden more and more. I like the idea of selah moments! Even short ones. thanks

    1. Good to hear from you, Mary! Your situation is a unique one, being with someone almost all the time with little to no option of being alone. Yet, you are finding a way. I have been thinking more about silence, both what I wrote and what Rick wrote, and I am trying to understand how to develop a discipline of silence as well as to look at the different types of silence. Might be more to come later on this. For now, keep seeking those times of silence and having Selah! moments. Again, good to hear from you!

    2. Please don't take my strict definition as a critique, Mary (I suspect you didn't, but I want to be sure to state that – that will be covered in the post I'm writing now). Quiet time for devotional reading is usually where people find they need to start – many never go deeper, which is why I point it out the way I did. Our situations are quite similar in that we are surrounded by people who prefer noise – mine is my father in law 🙂

  4. Kari you said "Perhaps time spent in silence to prepare for trials, make wise choices, process emotions and recharge would eliminate much of the overload and burnout plaguing us and the ones we love". Great wisdom Kari. It is also a time to reflect on what has gone before and to learn from it.

  5. I agree with Mark, practicing those six points would help us in our daily struggles. Just taking a second or two to silently ask the Lord for wisdom before answering someone take discipline. We just returned from a trip up to northern California. There were places in the parks where you felt the silence of the place. I could have sit all day on a log and just listen to God's creation which I know He speaks through. But could only spend a few minutes doing so because we had to be off to meet a missionary couple home on furlough. But I was thankful we drove through the giant redwoods and even as I write I can recall the silent of it and how it felt. I think for all of us we have to on purpose take full advantage of those silent times that come to us. Very good post Kari.

    1. Amazing how much wisdom God's Word gives us by way of preventative maintenance. We could avoid so much of what we put ourselves through! I love to be in nature for the pure silence of it. I've been to the redwood forests too and love the majesty I experienced there. I believe God gives us ample opportunity for silent times; we simply need to slow down long enough and remove the noise we put into our lives long enough to experience them. Thanks, Betty!

  6. What I keep thinking of as I read this is the biblical concept of meditation. It's not the Eastern concept of emptying your mind – instead, it's the idea of filling your mind and mulling over truths. Silence is what allows us to do that effectively. In fact, too much entertainment noise is more Eastern in that respect – emptying our minds.

    1. The idea of covering meditation in this series came to mind, but I just never got there. You are so right, though. Take out bad but be sure to add in good. That is a truth becoming more prevalent in my life.

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