“Mark this down, okay? You and I were never meant to repent for not being everywhere for everybody and all at once. You and I are meant to repent because we’ve tried to be.”
~ Zack Eswine, The Imperfect Pastor
Perhaps the reason so many of us who love Jesus find ourselves more like busy-Martha than adoring-Mary (Luke 10:38-42), is that we have yet to learn the rhythm of stillness before God. A couple of months ago, I was fortunate to spend three days away in prayer, silence, and solitude. The following Sunday I ‘preached’ 13 minutes of the sermon without speaking, to help our church feel the surprisingly instructive weight of silence. You can watch it below.
Like two pedals on a bike, both solitude and community are essential to forward movement in the Christian life. In fact, the Son of God himself modelled for his disciples a pattern of life marked by this idea of withdraw-and-return. Withdrawing from the noise of the crowds to be alone with His Father; then fruitfully re-entering the rhythms of community & mission.
Or perhaps it may help to think of these two rhythms as we would think of breathing. In the same way that an inhale of breath is necessary to exhaling, so is silence to our speaking and solitude to our mission. Both are essential to life.
Without community, we live in a place of self-absorbed isolation.
Without solitude, we live in a place of constant distraction.
Here are 5 benefits I experienced during my extended time away with a closed mouth and an open Bible before God:
1. Silence & solitude are a place of strength
“This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.” (Isaiah 30:5)
Power from God is directly connected to intimacy with God, resting in God, and stillness before God.
2. Silence & solitude are a place we learn the wisdom of listening
“The ear that listens to life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise. Whoever ignores instruction despises himself, but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence.” (Proverbs 15:31-32)
With the constant barrage of words and sounds all around us, perhaps if we spent more time before God with our mouths closed and our ears open, we would emerge as people in our culture who actually have something to say.
3. Silence & solitude are a place of clarity
“The heart seldom gets hot while the mouth is open.” (A.W Tozer)
Go ahead and slowly re-read Tozer’s words again before scrolling any further.
4. Silence & solitude are a place of honesty
In public, with friends, and on social media…it’s easy to fake it. But in the quietness of prayer, we are forced to be completely honest with both ourselves and God. In this digital age where we have all become our own online P.R Managers, solitude reminds us that the only filter we bring before God is the imputed righteousness of Christ.
As the famous hymn goes,
Before the throne of God above, I have a strong and perfect plea,
A great High Priest who’s name is love, who ever lives and pleads for me.
5. Silence & solitude are a place of surrender
Surely the act of closing our mouths and opening our ears is one of the purest moments of surrender! It was in his silence before his accusers and Pilate, that Jesus preached the ultimate message of submission & surrender to the Father’s will. And then on the cross he surrendered himself up for our sins and endured the silence of the Father, so that three days later the world would know the Good News of the resurrection!
Jesus endured the silence of the Father, so that we may know the Good News of the resurrection!
If we are going to learn pace and run long in our frenetic, busy world, we need to make time to selah (“pause and reflect”) a regular rhythm in our lives. Here are three practical ways we can do this:
- Daily. Schedule a daily reminder in your phone to be still and remember that God is God, and you are not (Psalm 46:10). Give thanks, confess your need, and then enter back into the noise.
- Weekly. Receive and honour the gift of a weekly Sabbath. Rest in God’s grace and enjoy God’s creation. The world is not going to fall apart while you withdraw. But you will, if you don’t.
- Yearly. Plan a yearly rhythm of a day or two away, in order to be alone with God. Read, write, journal, pray, hike, worship
“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth!” The Lord of Hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” Selah.