Making Time for Silence

Like many farmers, the end of the harvest season often leaves a few days for deer hunting.  My favorite time to hunt deer is during snow – quiet, beautiful, easy to pick out silhouette’s, not many other hunters around.  Oh, and yes, I usually come home with something to put into the freezer! Last weekend, an early December snow brought over four inches of very pretty fluffy snow.  Sitting in the deer stand, deep in the woods on our farm the only sound was the ghostly whistle of a faraway train. Funny how with all of our technology we “masters of the universe” depend on, all it takes is a little snow to slow everything done.  All the sounds of day to day life fade away. It seems to me that our modern way of life is very uncomfortable with silence. In a few short decades, we have succeeded in stuffing most of our day with various types of noise-TV/music at home/car/tractor/combine, headsets/earbuds while working, recreating, or commuting, etc.

This has left almost no time available for silence.  Most of us are in a state of constant auditory stimulation.  Ok, you might say. So what? Why should I care about silence?

We should care because I believe that God has shown throughout the Bible (and in my own experience too) that His voice is heard best when there are minimal distractions, indeed silence.  Let me share several examples. In Psalm 46, we are told to, “ Be still, and know that I am God”. In being still, we are able to appreciate the beginning of the this famous psalm when it declares, “ God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.”

One of my favorite Bible stories is Elijah’s encounter with God at Mount Horeb in 1st Kings 19.  After Elijah’s great witness for God on Mount Carmel, the evil Queen Jezebel threatens to kill him.  Notwithstanding God’s great faithfulness and undeniable miracle, Elijah in fear runs away to escape the wrath of Jezebel.  God finds Elijah hiding in cave and asks him a very penetrating question; “What are you doing here, Elijah?” After giving God a lame excuse, the Lord tells him to 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. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood near the entrance of the cave.” We humans look for momentous signs in our relationship with God.  But the Lord was not in the wind, earthquake, or fire. He was in a low whisper. How did Elijah hear this? Because there was silence and he was prepared to listen. Now he was ready to hear God’s direction for his life.

Over two thousand years ago on a cold winter night, shepherds watching their flocks heard an angelic message, in part, because they were completely available for God, attentive, and undistracted.  The silence of the night provided the setting to be sensitive to God’s voice. They listened and obeyed. Just a few miles away in Jerusalem at Herod’s magnificent palace, amidst the deceitfulness of wealth, lust for power, and pursuit of pleasure, no one had ears to hear. The “noise” level there was so overwhelming that God’s low whisper could not be heard.

This season as we prepare to celebrate the arrival of King Jesus into the world, what is our “noise”” level like?  Are we like Elijah, faithful yet fearful, looking for the Lord’s presence and direction in the wrong places? Or are we like the shepherds, whose faithful watch night after night placed them in a holy and silent place, where they could receive the word of God?  Let us prepare a way for the Lord to fully enter our lives by giving Him the honor and glory of meeting Him is silent reverence this Christmas.

This article was originally published with Lancaster Farming in 2017.