Have you ever just sat in silence? At first it might be a welcome change to the hectic nature of our lives, granting us a sense of peace. Yet, it often does not take long for the silence to change. You begin to hear your own heart beat loudly in the silence. You might begin to hear a high-pitched ringing in your ears. If the silence lasts long enough, you may even begin to hear music or voices. Our bodies don’t like the absence of stimulation, and they will begin to create their own stimuli to fill the void. In silence, we also have nothing to distract us from the thoughts we have been pushing off. These can overwhelm us as they flood our minds. You might feel a small amount of panic, wondering if it will end. Instead of being peaceful, silence can become weighty, almost oppressive.
We see the same pattern when we wait on God. At first we accept the silence, maybe even welcome the opportunity to wait on God’s timing for our lives. Yet, if He continues to be silent for too long, we may begin to struggle under the weight of that silence. We begin to wonder if He hears us or if He cares about us. At some point we may want God’s direction so badly, we begin attributing meaning to mundane situations like: “God, because I arrived late to that interview, maybe that means it wasn’t your will for me to get that job.”
Just as our bodies naturally create their own stimuli as we sit in silence, we are prone to do the same thing spiritually as we wait on God. The problem is we are not meant to fill this silence. We are meant to wait.
That can be quite difficult. If we struggle to cope with mere moments of practicing silence in our lives, how can we possibly accept even longer periods of silence from God? We do it through hope. Not just any hope, but a hope that rests in trusting that God will not always be silent, and even when he is silent, he continues to work in our lives.
We see this in the experience of Israel as they went through a great period of silence from God. Four hundred years passed between the last Old Testament prophet and the birth of Jesus. During those four hundred years, God remained silent. Surely God’s people struggled during this time. For centuries, God had sent them prophets and leaders. He even promised to send a Messiah, but around 400 BC, God went dark. Nothing. Just a sudden silence, without explanation. Where was God? Had He forgotten them? Had he left them? Yet, God gave his greatest gift in the midst of this tremendous silence: He gave Jesus.
On this side of the birth of Christ, it is easy to know that God had not forgotten Israel. We can see that now, but they struggled to see it then. When we walk through our own silence, we have the opportunity to trust that the same God who worked through 400 years of silence then, is the same God working in our silence today.
Through the season of Advent, we seek to develop the ability to be more present to God, to His promises and to the people around us. In this way, we can grow in trusting God in periods of silence. For the next two days, practice the following exercises:
1. Awareness: Sit quietly, close your eyes and listen. For a few moments, simply identity the various sounds you hear around you. This practice helps us sit in the silence and be very present to our surroundings.
2. Present To The Spirit: Sit quietly, close your eyes and ask the Holy Spirit to remind you of prayers God has answered in your life. Then listen and think about how God has worked in your life.
Each exercise seeks to place us firmly in the moment. Our lives are often filled with so many thoughts, sounds and stimuli, it can be very difficult to simply be present in the moment. Use these exercises as ways to begin developing a greater ability to be in the moment and to hear from the Lord.