I wake up to the alarm of my iPhone, around 7am. I play music while I’m in the shower. I keep the music going as I get dressed. I turn on my coffee grinder, boil some water, and make a pour over. The music still plays. I drive to work. Meetings. More Music. I drive home. More music. I talk to my friends. I listen to more music. Noise. It seems like I can’t escape it. Even when I take my headphones out or turn off my music, I hear people laughing, people talking, people yelling, cars going by, construction happening, trains chiming, whistles blowing…noise. It seems that by living in a town or city, we can nearly never escape noise. It’s part of the human experience. But is it meant to be?
Noise pollution is all around us. When exposed to copious amounts of noise, increased stress (and possibly illness) occurs. Stress is most prevalent in urban areas, and the more introverted a person is, the easier it is for them to become stressed and bothered by the noise. But what does noise do to our spiritual life?
It seems as though it effects our spiritual life, as well. Silence is needed, as
“we pay attention to the things that yell at us the loudest, and we pay attention to them in the way that cut us off from the things of God.” (Dr. Steve Cone, theologian)
The world around us is loud, crazy, and always making noise. Whether it be auditory or social media on our smartphones, there’s always something to read, to see, to laugh at, and a way to be entertained.
“We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence, and private: and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship.” - C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory
Silence is needed. The more I think about it, the more I want it. Not only that, but other people seem to want it as well. According to a recent study done by Barna Group, 67% of millennials said that the most inviting church environment would be QUIET.
Stillness and silence seems to be a lost art in our world, even silence from the distractions in this world. I know for myself, when awkward silences occur in conversation, I often immediately look to my iPhone to save me. When waiting in line at the grocery store, I’m checking Twitter. In 2015, I listened to over 697 hours, or 29 days of music. (This number is from Spotify's year in music feature, so that's not counting my time spent listening to my records or my iTunes library.)
The problem with this is that while the world seems to be this screaming banshee of distraction and noise, God speaks in the stillness and silence. A great depiction of this would be in 1 Kings 19. The prophet Elijah was sitting in a cave, waiting to hear The Lord’s voice.
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. — 1 Kings 19:11-12 (ESV)
God didn’t speak to Elijah through the loudness of an earthquake, a raging fire, but a whisper. While the earth screamed, God spoke quietly. The problem is, God’s character does not change. So how do we listen? We follow Christ’s example.
While crowds would start to gather around Jesus and want Him to perform miracles and amaze them (which is not why Jesus came),
“…He would withdraw to desolate places and pray.” - Luke 5:16 (ESV)
While writing this, I realized that lately I’ve been pretty terrible at withdrawing and listening for God’s voice. I’ve been distracted. It’s easy to get distracted with the busyness of life, too. So while the earth keeps growing louder, join me in withdrawing. Whether it be in your room, a coffee shop, the woods, or a park, find a spot where you can be undistracted—and listen to God’s voice. It may not be an audible voice, but it normally comes in a whisper and unexpectedly. The world screams, but our God whispers. Be attentitive to the whispers.