Every silence means something.
There may be an absence of sound, but there is always a presence of meaning. Absolute silence is rare. It is the province of outer space. Here on earth there is always sound. I’ve heard it said that the universal pitch of creation is B Natural. I don’t know if that is true but what we usually mean by silence is a lack loud or unwanted sound—quiet. In music a measured period silence is called a rest. The old conductor’s joke is: “What do you do on a rest?” The student replies, “Nothing.” “Wrong,” says the leader. “You count.” Rests are not restful in music.
Many of us long to linger by the ocean and we call it silence when it is really quite noisy with wind, waves, and shore birds. It feels like silence to us because we don’t hear motors or crowds or loud speakers. Our silence is really the absence of manmade noise. It is the same with the country or the woods. There is plenty of sound but it is not the sound of the city, of civilization. It is the sound of rest and not work, of relaxation not tension.
The Psalmist claims silence as a form of prayer:
“For God alone my soul in silence waits; from him comes my salvation.”
Silence and waiting are joined together in prayer.
A place of prayer should be place free from noise. We must find a solitary place where only the sounds of creation accompany our time with the Father. There is enough noise in our souls; we don’t need the clanking clamor of man’s devices. We need silence of the soul to hear the still, small voice of God. We don’t even need the ticking of the clock. Waiting on God in prayer is the suspension of time—there are no clocks in heaven. In this silence our strength is renewed like the eagle.
Silence and Faith
When there are no answers for a question facing us, silence is needed. Perhaps we have already written a “pros and cons” worksheet and we still can’t see the way forward. It is time to be still and know that God is God. It is enough to know that He knows and doesn’t need any information from us. Faith is sometimes expressed best when we close our mouths and just trust in what we know God has promised. Overwhelming circumstances shrink in this silence to a manageable size. This quiet faith reminds us that God knows and cares and is on the scene.
Silence and Hope
Silence simplifies life. One of the three greatest things in the world, according to the Apostle Paul, is hope. Hope does not shout, it whispers. When the noise of the moment subsides, we hear the beautiful drone of hope. It was there all along but it was drowned out by cacophony of life. Hope is like what is called the tonic in music. It is the note C in the Key of C. The song starts there and wanders far away through all the other pitches in the scale but in the end it returns to the tonic, to C, and we are at rest. Hope is always singing to us; silence helps us hear the song again.
Choose Silence Every Day
The Path of Life is the path of silence—choose to walk it every day. Today, turn off the speakers and machines and the other noise makers so you can hear the silence.
“For God alone my soul in silence waits; from him comes my salvation.”
Ecclesiastes 3:7 NKJV
…A time to keep silence, And a time to speak;
Habakkuk 2:20 NKJV
“But the Lord is in His holy temple. Let all the earth keep silence before Him.”
Exodus 14:13-14 NKJV
And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.”
Psalm 46:10 NKJV
Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!
1 Kings 19:11-12 NKJV
Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces 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 a still small voice.
Psalm 62 (BCP)
For God alone my soul in silence waits; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold, so that I shall not be greatly shaken. How long will you assail me to crush me, all of you together, as if you were a leaning fence, a toppling wall? They seek only to bring me down from my place of honor; lies are their chief delight. They bless with their lips, but in their hearts they curse. For God alone my soul in silence waits; truly, my hope is in him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold, so that I shall not be shaken. In God is my safety and my honor; God is my strong rock and my refuge. Put your trust in him always, O people, pour out your hearts before him, for God is our refuge. Those of high degree are but a fleeting breath, even those of low estate cannot be trusted. On the scales they are lighter than a breath, all of them together. Put no trust in extortion; in robbery take no empty pride; though wealth increase, set not your heart upon it. God has spoken once, twice have I heard it, that power belongs to God. Steadfast love is yours, O Lord, for you repay everyone according to his deeds.
Luke 21:19 KJV
In your patience possess ye your souls.
Lord Jesus, quiet my soul today that I may hear Your voice within. I may face, like the prophet, a mighty wind today—let me weather the storm. My world may shake like the tremors of an earthquake today—help me stand steady until the shaking stops. A consuming fire may threaten to destroy what I have—keep me safe from its flames. After all these devastations have done their worse, I know in the silence that follows, I will hear Your still, small voice and know that it is well with my soul. Thank You, Jesus. Amen.
Be Still My Soul
Words: Katrina von Schlegel; Music: Jean Sibelius
1. Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side;
bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
leave to thy God to order and provide;
in ev’ry change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heav’nly Friend
thro’ thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
2. Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
to guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
all now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice, who ruled them while He dwelt below.
3. Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
and all is darkened in the veil of tears,
then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.
Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay
from His own fullness all He takes away.
4. Be still, my soul: the hour is hast’ning on
when we shall be forever with the Lord,
when disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past,
all safe and blessed we shall meet at last.
© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved