Not long ago I was going through a tremendously busy season where I was working three part-time jobs and taking two graduate courses. It seemed the only time I could take for myself was Sunday morning, and there were a couple of weeks during that season that I simply skipped church and ran off to a local state park. I have always found that sitting quietly in nature has a power to restore my soul, and in that season, I definitely needed restoration. I came home from those outings better able to face the demands of the week, even though I had not spent any time working on my many tasks. It was simply being quiet and still that brought me the strength I needed to go forward.
When was the last time you sat still and quiet for more than 30 seconds – without looking at your phone?
Stillness and quietness are not what most people think about during the weeks leading up to Christmas. Parties, special musicals, family gatherings, shopping – the list of demands upon our time and attention seems endless. However, unless we deliberately take time to sit and reflect on our lives a part of our regular schedule, we run the risk of missing the significance of the time spent with family and friends, of getting swept away in the whirlwind of activity rather than making meaningful investments in the people we love.
Many professionals and experts have begun talking about the importance of such times, and it seems to me that this is a key element of living a deeper, more connected life – connected with the people around you and with the things you value most.
- The first of five simple exercises that Julian Treasure provides to improve conscious listening in his TED Talk “5 ways to listen better” is three minutes of silence daily.
- Michael Hyatt, in his blog post on “The Practice of Stillness,” points out that stillness “is tremendously difficult in our media rich, always-on, over-communicated society. Noise crowds into every empty space, leaving us spiritually, mentally, and emotionally exhausted”; he says he spends 15 minutes a day in stillness.
- Pico Iyer, in his TED Talk “The Art of Stillness,” says that stillness and silence was “the only way that [he] could find to sift through the slideshow of [his] experience and make sense of the future and the past.”
God calls us to stillness and quietness. With this in mind, I believe Isaiah 30:15 has a very relevant message for us today:
“For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, ‘In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.’ But you were unwilling” (ESV).
“But you were unwilling” – those are powerful words. How often are we unwilling to sit quietly and listen, being fully present in the moment? How often have I resisted quiet moments when I felt God calling me to reflection by opening an app on my phone?
When I consider the moments of quietness found in the Bible, and especially the Gospels, it seems each moment is followed by demonstrations of God’s power and glory. Luke 5:16 tells us that Jesus frequently sought quiet moments, and I believe this enabled Him to bring quiet and calm to otherwise chaotic situations:
- In Luke 8:23-24, He was able to sleep in a storm-tossed boat, and when He was awakened by the disciples, He merely spoke and created calm.
- In Luke 8:26-29 and 35, He brought calmness to the man who had been possessed by a legion of demons.
- In Luke 9:10, He took his disciples away to a quiet place, which was followed by the feeding of the five thousand.
If Jesus needed quiet to hear from the Father, how much more do we? As Christians, if we really aim to be more like Jesus, I believe it is necessary to take time for stillness and quietness. The reflection that this time makes possible will enable us to not only hear our Heavenly Father more clearly but also be more fully available to those we love. In this season, I challenge you to find at least five minutes daily to sit still and be quiet. You may be surprised by the results!
Resources and Links:
Julian Treasure: 5 ways to listen better
Michael Hyatt: The Practice of Stillness
Pico Iyer: The art of stillness
17 Bible verses about stillness
45 Bible verses about quietness