The Beauty of Silence

Last night in the young adult small group that I lead at church we each asked God a question.  We spent the evening studying what the Bible says about prayer, discussing our personal views on prayer, what God’s will is and how to know it, who we’re talking to when we pray (savior, creator, king, father, friend), and then we closed out with a prayer experiment, of sorts.  Each person thought of a question they had for God, any question at all, and then we just got quiet and did some personal prayer time and brought that question before God.  

And man, did it ever get silent in that room.

I had my own question for God, and so He and I talked about that for a minute or so, but then I was overwhelmed by the silence.  To be completely honest, at this moment, I was attacked by the silence.  I’ve had to fight hard to gain confidence as a teacher and a leader.  Writing comes naturally to me, music is pretty natural, leading a group of people and speaking and being responsible for their spiritual growth?  Yeah, that can be a little terrifying, especially when I think about it from just my own strength and forget to remember that God’s with me in there every step of the way.  And in that silent moment last night, I felt like the silence was an indication of failure.  My eyes were closed, and I began to imagine that every young man in the room was just sitting there bored, or sitting there on their phone, feeling like their time was being wasted.  For a moment, I despaired.

But then God sort of nudged me, as He has to do many times each day, and my whole outlook shifted.  The silence wasn’t an indicator of failure, it was a thing of beauty.  Sure, there’s every chance that one or more people in there were bored, or just weren’t connecting or communing with God like I hoped they would, and that’s okay, because I know some of them were.  That silence represented a pure, deep focus not just on God, and not just on prayer, but on a specific prayer for a specific need/question.  I believe in full faith that the silence represented breakthrough, and that someone’s question was answered, and something happened in there between them and God that’ll shape the coming year for them, that’ll deepen and strengthen their walk with the Lord.  

Silence is interesting to me.  I often relate it to waiting, and depending on the situation, waiting can be maddening.  I’m friends with several missionaries and I know that there’s usually a time between when they are called to the mission field by God and when they actually get there.  Sometimes there’s a period of silence between those two points.  There’s certainly a lot of waiting.  Sometimes when I ask God a question I don’t get an immediate response.  Sometimes I get silence.  And that can be frustrating and it can be hard, but there’s always a purpose.  It can be strengthening me, protecting me, preparing me, doing so many things.  

There’s a great verse in Lamentations about waiting on the Lord.  If I wanted to just pick apart the Bible and show you the pretty pieces of it I would give you Lamentations 3:25-26, and it would look like this.  

Lamentations 3:25-26 The Lord is good to those who wait for him,

to the soul who seeks him.

26 It is good that one should wait quietly

for the salvation of the Lord.

But I don’t believe that’s the true heart of this section of scripture.  If you continue reading, it pushes beyond the pretty and acknowledges reality, the fact that waiting can be tough, that there are struggles in the silence.  And then it brings it around to the truth of God, that though there may be struggles, God’s love shines through in the end, every single time.

Lamentations 3:25-33 The Lord is good to those who wait for him,

to the soul who seeks him.

26 It is good that one should wait quietly

   for the salvation of the Lord.

27 It is good for a man that he bear

   the yoke in his youth.

28 Let him sit alone in silence

   when it is laid on him;

29 let him put his mouth in the dust—

   there may yet be hope;

30 let him give his cheek to the one who strikes,

   and let him be filled with insults.

31 For the Lord will not

   cast off forever,

32 but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion

   according to the abundance of his steadfast love;

33 for he does not afflict from his heart

   or grieve the children of men.

Take heart, my friends, for there is beauty in your silence, and there is purpose in your struggle.  Don’t let the silence beat you, like it almost beat me last night.  I almost lost out on the beauty of that silent set of minutes because of fear, anxiety, doubt, and lack of confidence.  That moment was either going to be ugly evidence of my failure as a teacher or beautiful evidence of God’s power and love and willingness to speak with His people AND evidence of the willingness of young men to get into deep prayer with their Lord.  But I had to choose my interpretation of the silence.  I had to decide which version of the moment I walked away with.  I’m thankful that I have the Holy Spirit inside me and that in that moment when I despaired in the silence, he nudged me.    

Father God, thank you for the silent times.  We don’t always feel like praising you and thanking you during those times, but I know there’s always a purpose, and so right now I just wanted to say thank you for those periods in my life.  Make us excellent stewards of silence, allow us to be strong enough to still walk in your will and walk your path even when we’re in a period of silence, even when we’re struggling.  Give us a deeper trust and faith, remind us that you are a God of purpose and that you are a God of perfect timing, and that silence and waiting isn’t a punishment, sometimes it’s exactly what we need in that moment.  Open our hearts, Lord, please make us more receptive to your voice, help us to hear you more clearly in the days to come.  I ask you all these things in the precious name of Jesus, amen.

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