Why is quiet such a rare thing in our world?
- when we get into our cars, one of the first things we do is turn on music.
- when we come home to an empty house, how often is the television turned on for “background noise”?
- if a group of people are silent for more than a few seconds, someone invariably feels the need to say something, even if it’s just to make small talk.
- the word crickets has come to mean silence: the kind of silence heard on a country evening when, apart from the chirping of crickets, there are no other sounds.
- speakers searching for a particular word often fill the gap with a drawn-out “um” rather than allow silence to hang in the air until the word occurs to them.
Why does silence make us uncomfortable?
The fear of silence actually has a name: sedatephobia, a diagnosis that has become prevalent in the past fifty years or so.
The rapid development of technology has added to this problem. Many people experience symptoms akin to withdrawal if they are separated from the external stimulation of their devices for even short periods of time.
Even among Christians, the concept of having a “quiet time” (reading the Bible and praying) is something we have to be intentional about or it just doesn’t happen.
Becoming comfortable with silence has been an adjustment for me this past year. Living with someone for four decades usually meant having a person home to talk to, or to listen to. Either way, a silent house was not the norm.
But the consequences of discomfort with silence reach beyond physical or psychological implications. In filling the silence, we’re drowning out the voice of God in our lives.
How many of us have said, “I wish I could hear God speak to me”? The truth is, He is speaking to us through the Bible. Still, His Holy Spirit also speaks to our spirit prompting us with conviction, comfort, thoughts, and ideas to provide guidance and direction. Of course, the Holy Spirit will never direct us contrary to His written Word.
But if we’re dependent on a wall of sound to dull our senses, why are we surprised that we cannot hear God speak to us? Remember the prophet Elijah in I Kings 19:11-13:
“And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave” (ESV).
Could it be our dependence on background noise has caused us to become obsessed with seeking God’s dramatic moves because He is now competing with all the other sounds and stimulation in our world? Are we convinced that if God is speaking, it must sound like a strong wind, an earthquake, or a roaring fire, and if it doesn’t, then it must not be God?
Instead of filling the silence, what would happen if we intentionally built periods of silence into our day? Not nap times, but rather simply quiet times without external stimulation. Such times when it will become easier for us to hear and recognize God’s “low whisper,” or as other translations phrase it, “still, small voice” or “gentle blowing.”
Even better, what would happen if we were to train our children to have a quiet time in their day? A time when they sit still and think about what God has done for them. The children’s program in Bible Study Fellowship International (BSF) actually incorporates such a quiet time as preschoolers are taught a Bible lesson, then spend a few minutes simply lying down and thinking about what they’ve learned.
If we encouraged this practice in our homes, perhaps when they grow to adulthood, children wouldn’t be uncomfortable with silence. Instead, those “crickets” might help them recognize God’s gentle whisper guiding them through life.
What do you think? Are you filling the silence or are there quiet times in your daily routine? Is it time to begin building those quiet spaces today?
One thing I enjoy about friends is that we can be comfortable together without talk or TV or music. At the shore or before a sunset or on a porch. In quiet.
Definitely a mark of true friendship, Dave!
I guess I’m at the opposite end. I rarely turn on the radio in the car. If I’m home alone, I never turn on the TV. I truly enjoy the quiet. (My husband – not so much – he’s the one who turns on the TV, etc.)
Yet, I’m not sure I always hear God in the stillness.
Love this, Ava. I never felt comfortable with myself until recently, the last few years. Not coincidentally, it’s around the time I began truly centering myself in God and His word.
Ava, great article. I didn’t know the official term for being uncomfortable with silence. I wrote an article once about how to turn down the volume to a noisy world. Because all the noise robs us of my favorite parts of life. And it’s good insight you have that it drowns out the voice of God.
Christ relayed the importance a quiet place to His closest followers.
“Then Jesus said, ‘Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.’ He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat. So they left by boat for a quiet place, where they could be alone” Mark 6:31-32 NLT.
That’s right on the nose for me. I tend to seek out the noise instead of the quiet times I need.
I struggle with that, too, David.
I enjoy the quiet times of my day. I enjoy listening to the birds singing outside. I feel at peace when times are quiet. Yet, I enjoy the glorious sounds of children laughing and playing.
I think the more time we spend in quiet the more we grow into it. We learn to lean into and draw on for a deep level peace and restoration.
I determined years ago to leave the radio off in the car when I’m alone for a certain time during the day–commuting time. The silence has now become comfortable–contemplative.
Nancy, Anne, and Melissa – Yes, the more we practice times of quiet, the more we grow in our comfort with it!
I think you’re spot on! I have often complained that the world is too noisy and God whispers. We have got to teach people that in the silence is where you can “hear” God – another paradox of the Christian life, but one that needs to be practiced. Great post!
Thank you, Lisa.
I love to spend some time each day in the silence but I know so many who don’t. We need the quiet to hear from God.
Thanks Ava; I miss my husband and the many sports he loved to watch on TV. The house is quiet, but God has made my home a sanctuary and I feel his love. ❤️
I do understand, Lucy!