I am afraid of silence.
This is a relatively new realization for me. I began to notice recently that from the moment I wake up through the time that I am asleep there is some sort of sound playing in my apartment or wherever I go. Either I will play music from my phone or have Netflix running in the background as I sleep. The reason for this? A few years ago, some traumatic events took place in my life, and creating noise became the only way for me to distract myself from thinking terrible thoughts, replaying horrible conversations in my head, or having nightmares while I sleep. To this day, three years later, I am still dealing with the fallout because I used noise as my escape. Every traumatic thing that happens to me has me running right back to the noise.
In Psalm 62, David is exclaiming his trust in God and comparing it to the folly of man and his enemies. He writes this psalm while literally on the run for his life. In verse 5, he makes a command that is unique to this verse: “For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence.” If you aren’t reading the ESV, you’ll notice it likely says something about rest, instead. The basic message of this verse: David is commanding his soul to stop working so hard and be still while waiting for God to move. While on the run for his life yet again, David is choosing to stop and wait on God. In other words, he is giving up control over his situation. Embracing that silence for David means giving God control.
I know I try to control situations in my life, yet David’s example screams out to me that I need to stop. Unfortunately, creating noise is one of the ways we try to control our lives. Perhaps you are like me, and you are afraid of what may await you in the silence. If you stop working all day maybe you have to face a family member at home that you are avoiding. If you stop travelling, maybe you’ll have to settle down and figure out your future. There are just a couple examples of the way we create noise in order to avoid certain realities that await us in the silence. It is ironic though, because the more we do this, the less we operate in faith. Taking control by creating noise is basically saying, “God I don’t trust you to help me deal with this area of my life, so I am going to do what I think is best.” The longer we do this while singing in church about the importance of faith, the more we prove ourselves to be hypocrites.
The danger of silence is that in it we have to face whatever reality we are trying to block out. Have you ever been mad at someone, then went to read your Bible and intentionally avoided any place it talks about forgiveness and how anger is similar to murder (1 John 3)? You read the other parts for your devotional instead because you still want to live in your anger for a bit toward the persons that wronged you. This is another form of noise we create, and when it is applied to our devotional life, it can create a really nasty pattern.
Growing up, I was taught a devotional life was reading scripture and praying every day. But since reading Scripture is my choice, and prayer involved me “talking,” it meant that I was always in control of what God was teaching me. This is dangerous because if I am never willing to stop controlling my devotional life, eventually I begin to avoid whatever realities God may want me to face and now I am using Scripture as the excuse to avoid those realities. “Right now, God is working on my pride, He doesn’t want me to work on this other part of my life.” Are you saying that because that’s how you see God leading you, or is it because the “other part” involves a lot more pain and hard work? Don’t use your devotional life as the noise that blocks out your responsibilities.
It is vital that in our devotional life, we spend time listening to God. When you are in class who spends more time talking, the student or the teacher? Why is it then we spend more time talking to the God we should be learning from? I am not saying to shut your mouth and never say a word. God wants you to commune with Him; however, no one benefits from a relationship where only one person dominates every conversation. Perhaps now is the time to say, “God, show me what I am avoiding and give me the strength to confront it with your help.”
This is the reality of silence. In it we have the biggest opportunity for growth, but that growth comes at a price many of us, myself included, will often try to run from: pain and heartache. But from that pain and heartache comes some of the most beautiful parts of our life. After all, there is no salvation without something to be saved from. Here is what I am doing to deal with it: I am challenging myself to spend 30 minutes a day in silence to start with. For me that silence is literal; I need to cut out the actual noise that surrounds me. For you, that noise may be that you should work less, do that one hobby less, quit the addiction you have, or spend more time with someone you’ve been avoiding. Find the silence in your life and embrace it as an act of faith that God will act. That might be one of the most important acts of faith you ever commit. God will be with you in the silence and He will take care of you. After all, Psalm 23 is a reminder: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.”
You don’t have to fear the silence. You need only embrace it and trust God with the rest.