We’ve all experienced the awkwardness of silence. Think about the silence we experience at a dinner party when the conversation falls flat or the confining silence of a long elevator ride in a half-full elevator.
The commands, “Be quiet” or “Shut up,” are often punitive attempts to stop words—to enforce silence in another person.
If silence has a bad rap, solitude hasn’t done much better. If you have too much solitude, you’re a loner, outsider, or maybe even an outcast. Being sent to one’s room or a lengthy period of solitary confinement are punishments meant to instill the wrongness of an action.
Silence and solitude are certainly associated with negative connotations. Yet, there must also be an upside since Jesus regularly practiced both disciplines.
Throughout his ministry, Jesus went to isolated places by himself to pray (Mark 1:35). At times, huge crowds followed Jesus. The ministry opportunities were endless. Yet, “Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer” (Luke 5:16). Prayerful silence and solitude were a regular part of Jesus’ life. Busyness and a growing ministry did not distract Jesus from these important disciplines.
If the Son of God chose to practice silence and solitude as a necessary part of his life and ministry, it would seem wise for us to do the same. If the end goal of practicing silence and solitude is to glorify God by loving Him more deeply and serving Him more effectively, then a God-honoring silence and solitude will do at least four things:
1. Leads Us Deeper in Our Relationship with Christ
We need to slow down – to find spaces where we can hear God’s voice. “Be still and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world” (Psalm 46:10).
Judy Brown says, “What makes a fire burn is space between the logs, a breathing space.” We, too, need breathing spaces – places where we can examine our lives and allow the Holy Spirit to counsel, comfort and even convict. We need spaces where we can pray without interruptions or distractions—a daunting challenge if you’re the parent of a toddler!
Without these seasons of silence and solitude, the fire of spiritual passion within our souls begins to diminish. However, when we practice these disciplines in God-honoring ways, we stoke the fires of spiritual passion—the passion and commitment we need to truly live as vibrant and fruitful followers of Jesus.