Music, podcasts, audible books, conversations, television, radio, cell phones, streaming video — we are driven by sound. In some cases, simply noise, but all vying for our attention. At home, in our cars, on our jobs, and even working out, we have to have noise, or some type of sound.
I remember several occasions going to someone’s home and seeing the television on, I asked, “What are you watching?”
“Oh, nothing, I don’t even know what’s on. I just had it on for the noise.”
We leave the radio on in the car, so that when the car is started, there is immediate music, or voices, or some type of noise. All around us, we notice those who have headphones, or earbuds, always listening to something. There are some people who even use a “noise machine” to sleep.
Chatter, clatter and chaos throughout our days and nights, we find that constant noise is a common companion. Interestingly enough, science has found that noise pollution may increase your risk of hearing loss, stress, sleep disturbances, and heart disease.
Have you ever gone to a musical concert or a sports event, with hundreds, or even thousands of people, and tried to communicate with someone next to you? I have found myself in a few of these, and the person right beside me would be screaming something to me, and yet I was not able to hear them.
We often conclude that God no longer speaks to us, or that we can’t hear God. Could it possibly be that He is still speaking to us, but because of the noise around us, we are not able to hear what He is saying? I think that for us to hear someone speak, whether it be God, or another person, we must be willing to listen. And that may mean turning off noisy distractions. It may mean we have to find a quiet place.
In conversations, when there are moments of silence, we often stammer and stutter over words trying to fill the awkward spaces. Why does silence make us so uncomfortable? What is it about quietness that causes us distress? Does the thought of a quiet place make you nervous?
Through this season I have had many, many days, and even more nights that I have heard the deafening screams of silence. I have found myself in a strangely quiet home. A home that was once filled with the sounds of activity and life, but now uncommonly quiet. At first, this was very troublesome, but in walking through this process, something strange happened. I began to hear God. And it seemed the more I listened, the more I heard. In a strange sort of way, the quietness became somewhat of a friend.
I am reminded of a story found in the Bible in 1 Kings concerning the prophet Elijah. We find Elijah, alone and hiding in a cave. It is after a dramatic and noisy demonstration of God’s supernatural power. Now Elijah feels alone and forgotten. In this broken state, the Bible tells us there was an earthquake, a strong wind, and a huge fire, but the Bible says, “God was not in them.” But after the fire we are told, Elijah heard God speaking in a still small voice, or whisper.
The plants, the flowers, and even the trees grow in silence. The sun, the moon, and the stars move in silence. I encourage you to take a few minutes sometime this week, or in the next few days and simply turn off the sounds that are surrounding you. Unplug and just listen. You may actually be surprised at what you hear. For in the deafening sounds of silence the voice of God can still clearly be heard.
God speaks hope in the silence of the heart. For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from Him. Psalm 62:5 (ESV)