We have adapted our lives to include the constant noises that invade our day. Silence is actually discomforting to some. Phone apps and white-noise machines advertise better sleep to those who listen to a constant sound. Our televisions keep us company, provide us with ideas, and alleviate the quiet with entertaining options. It is less common these days to pass someone on their morning walk who isn’t listening to someone’s podcast that offers ideas, opinions, and information for their life.
We live in a much different world today than Jesus did. Jesus was surrounded by the voices of others and the needs of others, and those voices increased considerably during the second year of his public ministry. His example is an example for all of us.
Why did Jesus seek solitude and silence during his earthly life?
Jesus sought a desolate place
Where do you typically go when you need to pray?
I like to find a quiet, comfortable spot where I can be alone to think and pray. Mark 1:35 describes Jesus’ choice for the chaos of life. Mark wrote, “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.”
Why did our all-knowing, perfect, sinless Lord need to pray?
Our Sunday School teacher asked that question and it gave me pause. Did Jesus need to pray or did he just want to? His ministry was at the highest point of public interest. Everywhere Jesus went, the crowds followed him, seeking to hear his words and hoping to witness or receive a miracle. During these most popular months of ministry, Jesus sought to be alone with God.
We know Jesus followed God’s commands while here on earth, but did he need God to tell him what to do? Wouldn’t he have already known?
Actually, that question has been discussed and debated in theology on a lot of levels. When Jesus took on human form, he was “tempted in every way” (Hebrews 4:15 NIV) like we are but did not sin. Satan tempted Jesus after his baptism, and for human reasons Jesus probably wanted to turn those stones into bread. But Jesus wanted to obey God even more. Jesus didn’t want to follow Satan. I’m not going to solve this mystery in a blog post, but as I considered the question, I had another thought.
Jesus loved his Father, his Abba, in heaven. Jesus would have wanted to hear his Father’s voice and talk with him, Father to Son. Could it be that Jesus sought a solitary, desolate place early in the morning so that he could just share time with God and no one else?
Maybe Jesus prayed simply to be with God, to fellowship with the One he loved.
Maybe that should be a goal for each of us as well.
The power of silence
The word of the Lord came to Elijah on the mountain. Elijah was discouraged because the people were ignoring and disobeying God. He needed to be with God and hear his voice. God sent Elijah to the edge of the cave at the top of the mountain. On that mountain, Elijah experienced the power of God in the wind, an earthquake, and, finally, fire. But God did not speak to him that way. Instead, Scripture tells us that after the fire there was “the sound of a low whisper” (1 Kings 19:12).
Why did God choose to speak with “quiet” rather than noise?
There is a spiritual lesson about the power of silence we need to learn. If we have examples in Scripture like Elijah and Jesus, those examples are there for us as well.
When last did you seek a place of solitude and quiet simply to be with God and listen for him to “whisper” his answers to you? God has a voice and wants to speak his word into our hearts and lives. Could it be that we have crowded his whisper out of our lives with chaotic, ever-present noise?
God’s words are more important than any podcast. His words are perfect, pure truth, and everything else we hear must be tested. Do you tend to study or read your Bible with noise in the background? The first step toward God’s whisper might be to seek out the deafening silence which may cause some of us to feel uncomfortable.
Jesus got up very early, while it was still dark. In the first century, people didn’t travel at night because the darkness was something to fear. Animals, thieves, and the need for directions kept people from traveling in the dark. Jesus chose that time to be with his Father.
Why should you seek silence?
It might take us some effort to find perfect silence. I used to lead silent retreats. We literally arrived at a retreat center, went to our rooms, and lived with one another without speaking to one another or anyone else. I led a few directed times of prayer but mine was the only audible voice that spoke into the silence.
It was always an uncomfortable feeling at first, but, by the time we came to the end of the retreat, the ladies would share their thoughts and experiences, and it was such a blessing to our group. Mine might have been the only audible voice, but God spoke into their silence through his word, their thoughts, and often something in nature.
The silence was deafening at first, and then God whispered.
The voice of God
I always provided the people at the retreat with verses to consider about the voice of God. Three of my favorites are:
- Isaiah 30:21 – “And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.”
- Jeremiah 29:13 – “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”
- Exodus 33:11 – “Thus the Lᴏʀᴅ used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.”
God still speaks to people, even as he did in our Bibles. When God gave us his Holy Spirit, we received his indwelling voice of comfort, guidance, and direction. God’s voice is also the voice of acceptance, forgiveness, and pure love.
Today, let’s consider the example set by Jesus and Elijah. Jesus sought solitude to be with God, and Elijah heard God in the quiet. I can honestly say that when I seek answers from God, I seek solitude first. There is something about the deafening quiet that allows God to speak. Our Lord deserves our wholehearted attention, and he deserves to be honored as the One we love. It is into the silence and solitude that God can whisper.
If you are uneasy or skeptical about these thoughts, don’t worry. Everyone feels that at some point. Just don’t let your uneasiness hinder you from seeking solitude and the chance to be with your heavenly Father. Quiet the world for the sake of his word. The Lord will take it from there.
God speaks. It is my experience, but it is also the promise of God’s word and the example Jesus set for us.
Be still and you will know God’s voice. Be still and you will know God.
He is waiting to whisper. He wants you to know his voice.