Standing in the Silence
A few weeks ago, I spoke at a women’s conference sharing a message entitled Standing in the Silence. It was born out of a personal struggle; I had no idea that within a few weeks the theme of silence would become so globally significant.
The thought which closed that message is one I can’t get away from now. In the silence, every sound is magnified.
I had been struggling with loneliness and for months and months I avoided praying about that need of my heart. I didn’t stop praying, I just refused to pray about that. I told myself that God already knew the need. I didn’t want to go through the emotions of pouring out my heart over this.
And in the silence that I chose to let fall between myself and my God, the voice that was magnified was self-doubt.
That silence between me and Him allowed the problem to grow, at least in my mind. I could be surrounded by people and feel utterly alone.
I eventually decided to dive into Scripture to figure things out and realized that I was causing my own trouble. We’ll get to those Scriptures in a bit.
The major take-away was that I needed to take ALL of my concerns to God. And when I did, when I wholeheartedly chose to seek Him, it was His voice that became magnified. It was the voice of Truth.
I shared these slides with ways to stand in the silence (whatever that might look like for you) and to practice the spiritual discipline of silence.
I began to sense God pushing me to be intentional about engaging with others differently, and to seek out connections. I found a small group women’s Bible study to join (I hadn’t had time for that kind of fellowship in about a year due to increased focus on other areas of ministry), and other small groups and opportunities opened up…
And now the world looks so different for a season! Gathering in person isn’t an option, and yet, I am thrilled that I haven’t felt the least bit lonely because of “social distancing”. We are made for community, but that doesn’t happen by physically sharing space, it comes from genuinely sharing life.
We are made for community, but that doesn’t happen by physically sharing space, it comes from genuinely sharing life.
As I scroll through social media, I see so many people expressing feeling lonely. If that’s you, I want to encourage you: you have power to change that! I know this is extra difficult for the extroverts, but real connection can happen without physically sharing space. It’s a different kind of difficult for the introverts – we have to leave our comfort zone and be intentional about making connections. Whichever kind of “-vert” you are, right now is time for spiritual growth!
Introverts: The commands to make a priority of gathering together and encouraging each other (Hebrews 10:25) applies to us as much as anyone. For us, that means making an effort to intentionally reach out to other human beings. We sometimes need to (gasp!) initiate contact with others. Who keeps coming to your mind? You need to call or text them. That extrovert friend who knows you hate being on the phone, so they try not to call? They might really need an invitation to talk right now!
Let this be an act of spiritual discipline and watch how God grows you!
Extroverts: This isolation is hard, I know! This is a great time for you to practice being alone with God. It’s a great time to practice being silent and still in His presence. When you do get to talk with other people on the phone or Zoom, or whatever you use, practice being a listener, looking to discover what needs the other person has that they may not be quick to put into words. Be intentional about connecting with others on a deeper level. Use this time to explore slowing down. And your introvert friends who haven’t picked up the phone? Give them a call! They need human connection as much as you do, but they often hate to initiate it!
Let these things be an act of spiritual discipline and watch how God grows you!
I know I have over-simplified intro/extroverts, but I hope the point is made clear: this forced pause to the normal way of doing things is time to grow.
· We need to look for the needs around us.
· We need to be intentional about making connections.
· We need to encourage each other!
· We need to spend more time with God, one-on-One.
· We need to ask God: What is it you want to grow in me in this season?
· We need to whole-heartedly participate in that work He wants to do in us.
· And then we need to watch God work!
Finally, those Scriptures I referred to…
Check out the book of Esther.
In her time of greatest need, there wasn’t a five-point plan. All she could do was fast, pray, and take a step of faithful obedience. And that was all she needed to do!
Why do we behave as though prayer is all we can do? It’s always the best, most powerful thing we can do! It should be our first step! It should happen between every other step!
Esther didn’t know whether she would live or die when she approached the king uninvited.
We have an open invitation to our King, no matter how long it has been since our last visit!
Next is the story of Habakkuk.
A prophet in Israel shortly before falling into captivity, Habakkuk was frustrated with God. He saw the depravity all around him and couldn’t understand why God wasn’t acting to put an end to it. So, he went to God with his concerns, and closed his prayer with these words:
Habakkuk understood that if he wanted to hear a reply, he would need to wait and listen for it.
As I read that, this image came to mind: the oh-so-familiar rushing past another person, saying, “Hi! How are you?” and being gone before the other person can answer. I’m guilty of it myself. When we do that, we communicate that we didn’t really want the answer to that question.
My prayer life had begun to look like that. Asking questions, making requests, and then off I went to the next thing on my to-do list.
Lastly, Elijah’s story found in 2 Kings.
A Prophet in Israel, the bearer of bad news to an evil King and Queen, Elijah’s life was in danger. He was ready to throw in the towel when we pick up his story.
Esther, Habakkuk, and Elijah all knew that when they wanted to hear from God it was necessary to get away from the noise and listen for Him.
It is hard to hear God’s voice over the noise.
In the silence, every sound is magnified.
In the silence, are you listening to voices of doom and gloom? Are you listening to anxiety? Are you listening to the complainers? Are you helping them bring yourself down?
Or are you listening to hope? Are you listening to truth? Are you listening to encouragement? And are you letting God grow and strengthen you?
The choice is yours.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things! Philippians 4:8