Silence. It’s rare. It can be uncomfortable.
One of the definitions for silence in Merriam-Webster is:
A situation, state, or period of time in which a person does not talk in order that they may hear.
In fact, the word “silent” and the word “listen” have the same letters interchanged. They go hand-in-hand. I like the statement,
When I am silent, then I can listen, when I can listen then I can learn.
Lamentations 3:26 says,
It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.
There is nothing worse than being in the very presence of God and having that trampled out by noise. Hear me out… we have all been there, think about a time in church where you were “connected” and pouring your heart out in a song and when it ended the silence was stomped out by awkward applause. I have been there. I have been the culprit.
Sometimes silence is uncomfortable as a Worship Pastor. I have made many a victim to meaningless theological “fluff” off the cuff at the end of a song just to escape the effects of silence.
How does silence play a part in our worship and our communication with God? There is a place for singing and shouting and a place for silence. Why should we seek out silence and participate in it during our worship? Let’s think together below.
- Silence speaks when we have no words to say.
Revelation 8:1 is a small passage that reveals one of the most powerful moments that will exist in all of creation. That passage says,
When the Lamb ripped off the seventh seal, Heaven fell quiet—complete silence for about half an hour.
All of Heaven fell quiet. Can you imagine that? In that moment of significance there was nothing to say…
Such a small verse that is often read over relays a huge truth: sometimes when we encounter the awesome power of God, all we can do is be silent. Silence is the appropriate response.
This concept of silence isn’t new to us. I believe that everyone has had a moment in their life that has left them speechless. Think about at the end of a powerful film… the movie theatre is silent as the credits roll. What about when you have witnessed an incredibly powerful moment, whether it was an act of compassion or recognition for a humanitarian hero, sometimes applause and cheering isn’t the appropriate or natural response. I even think about when I have encountered someone that I admire or look up to. All I can do is stand in silence and observe.
On the same note, I have been in worship services that have left me at a loss for words… but yet the hardest thing for me to do was just to be silent. Why is it that we always feel the urge to speak? To clap? To cheer and yell?
Victory doesn’t only come in the midst of applause and cheers. In fact, in Psalm 62 David writes,
I wait quietly before God, for my victory comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will never be shaken.
Sometimes when we are left speechless it is better for us to stay that way than scramble for something “theological” to say.
Habakkuk 2:20 says,
But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.
Let’s not be so quick to speak “into” a situation that we miss out on experiencing the awesome presence of God.
- Silence confronts.
Nothing is silent anymore.
Last summer I went on a tour of Mammoth Cave here in Kentucky and at one of the deepest points of the trek the guide turned out all the lights and said that when the cave was empty and dark someone would quickly lose sanity because of the lack of auditory stimulus.
It’s a noisy world we live in! Everything around us makes noise. Think about the evolution of personal music devices. You used to have to have a record player and quite a large setup to listen to music. Over the years the devices have gotten smaller and smaller and now there isn’t a place we can go that is out of reach of our personal listening pleasure.
We now have constant auditory stimuli from our iPods, phone conversations, busy streets, and everyday life. Genuine silence is nearly impossible to come by these days, but yet silence has a power that we should use more often. Silence confronts.
That last statement may have thrown you off…
Let me say it this way… it is easy to ignore what’s going on inside of you when there are so many things demanding your attention. But when left with only silence, we have a much harder time ignoring the things deep down in our souls that we have tucked away for so long. Silence can reveal things that make us uncomfortable and strip away the things we have used to shield us away from facing them. Silence confronts us with ourselves.
Silence also confronts us with God.
God sometimes yells, but more often He whispers. With all the noise around us, sometimes it can be hard to hear and recognize His voice.
Psalm 46:10 provides the antidote to our “hearing” problem. It says,
Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.
Let’s make time in our worship services to be confronted with the voice of God speaking into our souls.
- Silence allows room for us to hear.
I Kings 19-9-13 says,
There he came to a cave and lodged in it. And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” 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. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
It is no coincidence that in 1 Kings 19, when God speaks to Elijah, it is in a “gentle whisper” and not in the fire, the wind or the earthquake like we would expect our all-powerful God to do.
What I have seen displayed in my own life of ministry is that God rarely, if ever has forced His will on me. Instead, He shows me and waits for me to make the move. He speaks and waits for me to listen. He promises and allows me to find Him. Isn’t that how faith works? It would be easy to have follow God if He was always blatantly pointing things out to us and screaming directions into our ears. We would be puppets or marionettes on a string being pulled in whatever direction He willed.
Romans 10:17 says,
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
So… are we hearing?
If God sometimes speaks in whispers then we must create time and space in our lives to hear His whispers and follow His gentle nudging.
Have you ever had a relationship with someone who never hears you because they are always either talking or thinking about how they are going to respond when you are done speaking? I personally catch myself doing that to God. I pray and respond… sometimes I just don’t listen.
If our relationship with God is like that of any other relationship then we know that communication is key. Communication isn’t only talking. Sometimes we need to just shut up and listen.
When we encounter the Spirit of God I believe that we should be quiet and let Him speak, and get out of the way so He can move.
Exodus 14:14 says,
The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”
Let’s commit ourselves to learning when to be silent.
Psalm 62:5 says,
For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.