Silence, Solitude, and Inner Peace

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“The desert fathers of centuries ago,” Henri Nouwen tells us, “understood the importance of a silent environment for the cultivation of the spirit when they called out to one another, Fuge, terche, et quisset—silence, solitude, and inner peace.”

Gordon MacDonald once wrote (Ordering Your Private World, 1985:126. Nashville: Thomas Nelson),

“Few of us can fully appreciate the terrible conspiracy of noise there is about us, noise that denies us the silence and solitude we need for this cultivation of the inner garden. It would not be hard to believe that the archenemy of God has conspired to surround us at every conceivable point in our lives with the interfering noises of civilization that, when left unmuffled, usually drown out the voice of God.

He who walks with God will tell you plainly, God does not ordinarily shout to make Himself heard. As Elijah discovered, God tends to whisper in the garden.

Recently I visited a missionary center in Latin America where workmen were constructing a sound studio for a radio station. They were taking careful measures to soundproof the rooms so that no noise from the city streets could mar the broadcasts and recordings that would emanate from that place. We must learn to soundproof the heart against the intruding noises of the public world in order to hear what God has to say. I love the words of Mother Teresa of Calcutta: We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature—trees, flowers, grass—grow in silence; see how the stars, the moon and sun, how they move in silence …”

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In light of this I reflected on a few questions I would like to share with you here today.

Now, as you go through them the temptation will be there to simply skim them over OR resist, but I would encourage you to consider each carefully in reflection.

If God speaks to us in solitude and whisper in quiet moments, WHY is so much of Christianity getting louder and louder?

Our gatherings make very little space for absolute silence and contemplation. We will in every moment with some sound. As Christians we are also known to be great talkers, but not so great listeners. Isn’t that exactly the opposite of what we see in the Scriptures? Isn’t that what we learn from the life of Jesus? Making time to be alone and pray – “praying,” meaning listening more than talking.

If our spirit is cultivated in the silent moments of life, why do so many try so hard to avoid it?

We are always connected these days. In fact, it’s hard to be alone. It’s difficult to create silent moments. Not because the act is difficult or complicated, but rather that we’ve become addicted to be in connected and liked. We crave for every comment and thumbs up. It’s become a form of personal validation and self-worth.

We post and share everything about us, from what we eat to what our cat is doing. I do it and you do it. And that’s the point. When do we become silent enough, unliked, post free, disconnected, and deviceless, to make time for the spirit to be cultivated?

The world has become louder than ever, and finding solitude and silence is harder than ever before, yet both is vital for our spirit to grow; what does that imply about the “depth” of people’s spiritual consciousness and perception today?

As more things steal our attention and invade our consciousness, the spaciousness required to “connect”with that which is of the spiritual, becomes increasingly difficult to “find.” Like a fish living in water, searching for water.

As good nutrition is needed for a healthy body and mind, so is solitude and silence needed for a healthy spirit. All three: mind, body and spirit need to be looked after well in order to be healthy and live fully; so, how healthy am I really?

A healthy spirit with sick body is short lived (within this dimension anyway). A healthy body with a sick spirit is destructive, and perhaps dead already.

As someone who spends a lot of time eating healthily and training my body to lift heavy weights and run fast, I understand the trap of imbalance. One can spend so much time developing one part at the expense of another. In fact, the deeper dimension to all of us can be completely overlooked and underdeveloped exactly because we are overseeing and over developing the surface level “stuff.”

You cannot hear God’s spirit speak into your heart if you don’t develop a higher level of spiritual consciousness. And churches or believers that fear or stray away from silence cannot possibly become aware and “hear” as well as God wants them to.

When we talk we cannot listen.  When we’re so involved with our own thoughts and ways, we cannot possibly discern God’s. When we’re always loud, we cannot be silent. When we’re always connected we cannot become disconnected enough from the constant chatter of the ego mind that inhibits us from “engaging the spiritual.”

We might only end up confusing the one for the other, and lead a “spiritual” life just to discover at some point it wasn’t spiritual at all.

“My thoughts are not your thoughts, and my ways are not you ways,” says the Lord.

My Friend, make time to be alone and silent … and listen …

May light and peace fill your life.