How to Use Silence as a Weapon Against a Noisy Life

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In his book, Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster writes, “In contemporary society our Adversary majors in three things: noise, hurry, and crowds. If he can keep us engaged in ‘muchness’ and ‘manyness’ he will rest satisfied.”

Read those words again.

In a nutshell, Foster is suggesting that we’re living a distracted kind of life. Or maybe more so, that we’re living a life in which we are being distracted – distracted and deceived.

What are we being distracted from? A lot. But more important than anything else, I would say that we’re being distracted from living the kind of life that God wants for us. We’re being distracted from living life with God.

Foster first penned these words back in 1978. I’m not sure what he saw in our North American society back then, but I can only assume that things have gotten worse and not better. That our world has become more filled with distractions. That our Adversary has become more cunning and deceptive in using the things of this world to divert our gaze and priorities from the One True God.

Why? Because he doesn’t want us growing in our relationship with Christ.

He’s found that the subtle distractions work. And I believe he knows that a frontal attack would be too obvious. So if he can use those things that have become so normalized in our culture, then we will be a lot less likely to notice what’s happening.

In this post, I’d like to focus on how this Adversary is luring us to turn up the volume in our lives to deafening levels, such that we are drowning out the still small voice of God.

He most assuredly uses the obvious noise-makers to grab at our attention. The TV on in the background or our earbuds in with the latest playlist. He uses our phone, our friends, and He uses the noises in our home, on the street, at our job, at the gym, and most everywhere we go.

But he’s also knows how to utilize the noises of social media and popular opinion to keep us overly concerned with what’s happening all around us. It’s a noise that beckons for our attention from the moment we wake up to the moment we finally drift off to sleep each and every day. It may not be an audible noise, but it doesn’t have to be if it still serves to distract us from God.

He’s also well aware of how to distract us with a form of internal noise that can be incredibly hard to temper. An over-active imagination. A troubled heart. An unending loop of messages that are untrue, unkind, and unhelpful. Yes, this noise might be the hardest to recognize, as well as the most challenging to deal with.

Noise. It’s all around us – and even within us. And if we allow him, our Adversary will use these noises to run – and then ruin – our lives.

But the noise has a kryptonite. It’s called silence.

God has provided us with a number of different avenues for intentionally pursuing Him. Some of these disciplines, or “graces” as Foster might refer to them, are ways of dealing with the things that keep us from more intentionally pursuing the With-God life.

The discipline of silence is a clear counter-measure to all of the noise we encounter. It is a way of attempting to deal with the volume levels – both external and internal – that can too easily overwhelm us.

Practicing silence is a way of attempting to turn down the noise and more intentionally pursue the still small voice of God.

It’s a way of creating space for God to move and work and speak in our lives.

But silence is not something that’s familiar to most of us. Nor is it something we should jump headlong into. If we’ve not been in the habit of exercising some of our “spiritual muscles,” then we’d be well-advised to start slowly and take incremental steps forward.

So here are a few suggestions for beginning to practice the discipline of silence:

1) Try spending the first 15-20 minutes of your day in silence. Keep the TV and music off. Don’t check your phone to see what happened overnight. Don’t check your email. Instead, enjoy the natural silence and stillness that comes first thing in the morning.

2) Try leaving the radio off on your drive to work or campus. Instead, utilize the silence to pray for the day in front of you.

3) Try talking less and listening more. You’ll be amazed at how challenging this can be.

4) Try to spend the last 15-20 minutes of your day in silence. Use some of that time to reflect on your day, as well as the noise you encountered and how you managed it.

There’s much more that can be explored here. But this will hopefully serve as food for thought.

What do you think? How big of an issue is noise in your life? What’s it keeping you from?

Order Guy’s upcoming book, Noise. Hurry. Crowds. in our store now.

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Dr. Guy Chmieleski serves as the University Minister at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee and author of Seedbed books, Shaping Their Future and Campus Gods. He is also the founder of FaithONCampus.com, a popular blog focused on better equipping mentors of college students. He has earned a Master of Arts in Ministry from Palm Beach Atlantic University and a Doctorate of Ministry with an emphasis in Spiritual Formation and Leadership Development from George Fox Evangelical Seminary. Guy and his wife Heather reside just south of Nashville with their five children Derek, Autumn, Kaiya, Noll, and Lailie Grace.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Guy: Thanks for this great article. The Holy Spirit has been challenging this ADD, results-driven, noise and people addicted pastor to live is the space of silence, solitude and stillness for several years. I am increasingly finding joy in this space.

  2. Jorge, this is definitely a call to live counter to our culture. It is my belief that as we commit ourselves to the With-God life, in some very intentional ways, that we will experience God in some new and significant ways – ways tha will shape us and form us, and ultimately point other people to God. Keep at it my friend.

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