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When Does God Speak?


“The Lord is in His holy temple.

Let all the earth be silent before Him.”

(Habakkuk 2:20)

     Have you ever noticed what happens when silence is forced on us? How do we feel and how do we tend to react? This was brought to mind recently when all of North Stockton lost electrical power. Outside, a level of noise was still audible, but inside the house it was different. Eerie. Quiet. Silent. I felt awkward and disoriented, because I have become so accustomed to the high-tech sounds around me. They remind me that all is well and things are running as they should, helping keep my “modern” lifestyle functioning.

Later, as I contemplated as to why I felt that way, I concluded that the sounds around us mean something is happening, something is being done, progress is being made.   The absence of sound, silence, means just the opposite: nothing is getting done and progress has stopped. We are so sound-oriented that when we are deprived of it, we feel the need to fix something or plug something in or buy a new one. We want to take action, because that “something” has ceased to work, and ultimately we will lose a portion of our progress and comfort if we don’t.

There was a time when silence was the norm. Yes, it was a simpler time but also a harder time. Folks didn’t live very long because of body-breaking work and killer diseases. But in our chase for an easier life, much has been lost.

I heard once that the primary Christian discipline isn’t prayer, Bible reading, fasting, or even worship. The greatest and possibly the hardest discipline for us to master is silence. Given the choice, most of us opt for noise and avoid silence. Why is it so important? Because without silence, all the other disciplines are next to impossible to carry out.

Unfortunately, we have taken this idea that “noise = something is being accomplished” into our corporate and personal worship, and have deprived ourselves of an opportunity for intimate communion with our Savior. When there is that rare time of silence, we fidget and become uncomfortable, if it lasts more than a minute. Why? We feel nothing is happening, nothing is being communicated, the nothing is being accomplished. But, folks, this is possibly the ONLY time in the week that God has our attention long enough to speak to us. And a short time isn’t long enough.

Quiet doesn’t equal silence. Even if our ears hear no noise (quiet), our minds make up for it with a deluge of thoughts, ideas and memories. It takes time for this noise to fade away. When it finally does, that’s when that still small quiet Voice has a chance to speak to us. The key here is time. If we don’t take the time, then we won’t be able to hear His voice.

That time of silence is when the Holy Spirit can finally do His work. We’re usually too busy to listen, with all the singing, praying, speaking and reading. But in silence, He has our full attention. What it says to Him is, “I am here with no agenda, nothing to ask or say. I am here waiting for You to speak to me. It’s now Your turn.”

In worship, unlike my loss of electricity, silence actually means something is happening and that something is being done. It’s happening in the secret places of our hearts where it matters most. Maybe that’s one reason some folks don’t like silence. It gives God a chance to get too close. For others of us, we eagerly await the opportunity. May He teach us the discipline of silence so that we may, “Be still and know that (He is) God.” (Ps. 46:10)

Jim Poelstra, June 2000


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