Silence is the Secret

We all long to be closer to God. But that requires something simple and often overlooked—the willingness to be still.

by Drew Dyck, In Touch Ministries 

I recently attended a large conference for church and business leaders, featuring big names like Colin Powell, Jimmy Carter, Jack Welch, Tony Dungy, and Rick Warren. But one speaker listed on the program seemed out of place. She wasn’t a prominent politician, business tycoon, or megachurch pastor. Rather than a suit, she wore a simple white robe and headscarf. Known as “Mama Maggie,” she is a diminutive woman who works in the slums of Cairo, Egypt.

When she walked onstage, the crowd erupted. Visibly moved by the reception, she stopped midway to the podium, pressed her hands together and mouthed words that were lost amid the thunderous applause. Then she lowered her body to the floor and prayed for a moment before rising to speak.

Silence is the Secret

She was worth the attention. Mama Maggie has dedicated her life to serving homeless, starving children in Manshiyat Naser (or “Garbage City” as it’s known in Egypt). She founded an organization called Stephen’s Children to help the countless boys and girls who roam the trash heaps looking for scraps of food. Today, the organization has thousands of volunteers, scores of whom were helped by the charity as children.

Of the many things she shared with us that day, one has stuck with me. “Silence is the secret,” she said to the crowd. “Silence your heart to listen to your spirit. Silence your spirit to listen to His Spirit. In silence, you leave the many to be with the One.”

That evening, I had the opportunity to interview her, and I was struck by the palpable humility and incredible gentleness of spirit she exuded. It was plain to see that everything about her grew out of a deep intimacy with God.

Quietness, both of mind and spirit, is essential for communing with the Almighty. “Be still,” the psalmist writes, “and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10 NIV). I think it’s important to note that the stillness precedes the knowing—not the other way around. Without first quieting our hearts (and minds and mouths), we’ll never realize the deep intimacy with God we so desperately crave.

Unfortunately, however, we are rarely silent. After a few seconds of quietness, we get fidgety. We start reaching for our gadgets or talking to avoid awkwardness and boredom. We can blame our technological devices or hectic work schedules or busy family lives, but the truth is, we avoid silence at all costs.

Silence is the Secret

A recent study conducted at the University of Virginia testifies to this sad truth. Researchers found that people preferred pain to being alone with their thoughts, even for a few minutes. Asked to sit in a room with no distractions for 15 minutes, participants were offered the option of giving themselves electric shocks. Around half of the people—all of whom had felt the painful jolt beforehand—chose to zap themselves just to break the monotony. (One participant opted for the shock 190 times.)

As Christians, we should find this aversion alarming, because being silent is essential for spiritual maturity. Quietness is to our souls what sleep is to our bodies: It helps us heal and gives us time to grow. Silence—that essential pause from the torrent of noise and busyness—enables us to hear our Creator and move closer to Christ. But finding this silence amid the cacophony of life can be difficult when a thousand things compete for our attention. Even when we get alone with God and try to quiet the buzz in our brains, the mental clutter of worries, fears, and unfinished tasks surges to the surface. It takes concerted effort to cultivate silence, especially in today’s world. But it’s a challenge we must accept. Our spiritual vitality is at stake.

And there’s more. Silence is something even greater than a tool to deepen our spiritual life; it’s the natural reaction of mortals to the presence of a holy God. In Scripture, when people encountered Him, they fell silent or spoke in hushed tones, fearful their sinful lips would incur divine judgment.

Take Isaiah, for instance. When he saw the Lord “high and exalted,” the only words he could manage were ones of despair: “Woe to me!” he cried, “I am ruined!” (Isa. 6:5 NIV). Ezekiel, too, was overwhelmed by his vision of God. After seeing Him in His glory, the prophet said nothing; he could only fall face-first to the ground (Ezek. 1-3).

Another example is Daniel, who could stare down lions, but when the heavens opened before him, he “bowed with [his] face toward the ground and was speechless” (Dan. 10:15 NIV). Likewise, the revelations of heaven the apostle John received left him lying on the ground “as though dead” (Rev. 1:17 NIV). And though there is no shortage of dialogue in the book of Job, silence reigns when God shows up. “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you?” Job says. “I put my hand over my mouth” (Job 40:4 NIV).

Silence is the Secret

But their reactions are radically different from ours. Drop in on an average church service, and you’ll hear loud celebratory music sung by cheerful, upbeat worship teams. There’s nothing wrong with this, of course. We need to be joyful. But there is little time spent standing in awe of God. Can we be shocked into silence by God’s unbridled majesty? Is it possible for us to stand in perfect stillness before His holiness? The answer to these questions is most definitely yes. Yes, we can.

But believe it or not, this isn’t a new issue. In the 17th century, a man named Isaac Watts complained about lackadaisical worship. He objected to “the dull indifference, the negligent and thoughtless air that sits upon the faces of a whole assembly.” His father challenged him to create hymns that would inspire more fervent worship. Watts did just that—and ended up writing some of the best-known songs of the English language, including “Joy to the World.” But it is the final stanza of “Eternal Power” that perfectly describes the worship that can come only with silence:

God is in heaven, and men below;
Be short our tunes, our words be few;
A solemn reverence checks our songs,
And praise sits silent on our tongues.

Watts understood something we would be wise to embrace—that worship sometimes demands wordlessness and that the purest praise often arises from hushed lips. Silence is an acknowledgment that we stand in the presence of a holy and remarkable God. It signals that we’re ready to listen, to receive, and to simply stand in awe of our Creator. It is when we intentionally close our mouths that we can experience a fuller measure of God’s greatness and grandeur.

 

Illustrations by Jeff Gregory

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Because you have made the Lord your safe place Psalm 91:9

A reminder during difficult times:

I am a pilgrim in the world, but at home in my God. In the earth I wander, but in God I dwell in a quiet habitation.  C. H. Spurgeon

When all hell breaks loose and everything around me seems like it is going wrong,
I need to remind myself that the Lord is my safe place.
My job may stress me, my friends may abandon me, my health may fail me
but in spite of it all I can dwell quietly in his perfect peace.
I don’t have it all figured out and I have no clue what tomorrow is going to bring
but I know that my redeemer holds tomorrow in his hands.
So during stressful and difficult times like these I must remember that although my strength may fail me his strength carries me.
Although my energy is lacking his spirit is ever present.
Although tomorrow may cause me to doubt I can trust that His word is true.

I must remember that nothing is impossible for God and although I don’t understand my circumstances I can renew my strength each morning and night when I pray.
I must remember that he goes before me in my battles and leads me to quite waters when my soul is weary.
I must remember that although I am imperfect, his ways are perfect and I can trust them.

Mariana

Take All that I Am

What a Beautiful God we serve!
Let His praises be heard all over the earth and let every weary soul know the greatness and vastness of His love .

The more I know Him the more I want to love Him.  Yet at the same time it seems like the more I search for Him the more He undoes me.
It’s like trying to look straight at the sun and having your eyes burn.
Your Glory is far more powerful than my limited mind can comprehend.
In only ask of you that you would heal my heart daily, renew my mind every moment and that your word would always be the lamp unto my path.

Take all that I am Lord, that I may love you and you alone.
Teach me to walk diligently, trustfully, and humbly in your site.

Oh that my mouth would say only those things that bring you praise.
That my heart would mourn for those who don’t know of your endless mercies.
That my hands would work at helping others find you.

Be the light in me that quenches all my thirst and removes all the darkness that seeks to destroy me.

Amen!
Mariana

Is Worry My Companion or Christ?

I remember not to long ago feeling extremely stressed out.  I kept taking deep breaths as if doing so was going to rid me of my worries and de-clutter the madness circulating in my brain.  As I drove I remember thinking to myself:

“There is just so much to do, bills to pay, kids to register for school, tuition fees and medical treatments we cant afford, health complications, searching for a home to move into, cooking, eating, remembering to sleep and in between all that, remaining faithful to God in prayer and devotion.”

I remember taking another deep breath and wiping the tears from my eyes as I drove into work and my thoughts continued:

“Lord, what are you doing with all of this?  I feel like we are juggling glass balls and at any moment one of those precious balls is going to drop and shatter.  Will it be the health ball that falls first or the financial ball?”

How many times have we been in the same situation?  Worried sick that things are not going the way we planned.

I know for me, life has been anything but easy this past decade, more so these past 4 years.  Time and time again, suffering has become my companion and tears my food.

There have been days filled with immense pain, hardship and trials in the midst of days of sunshine.

But when days and seasons are draining my energy and destroying my hope; I pray for God to give me peace and I try my hardest to stand on the fact that my redeemer, your redeemer, He lives and He is with me and with you.  I can’t see Him or feel him or touch him in a direct way, but I can see His beauty as I observe the wonders of His creation.  Animals feeding their young and calling one another for companionship and help.  Birds chanting a mid-day melody.  I feel Him when I am embraced by a cool breeze on a hot summer day and when I hug my children I get a glimpse of His perfection and beauty.

So when worry fills up the hallways of my heart and I am consumed with doubt and fear I need to remember, we all need to remember that He lives and He has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of might and of a strong mind!2 Timothy 1:7

May you know that He lives, may we all know He lives and although the day may be at its darkest, the new morning is just around the corner.

Pray for me so I can remember these truths always.  If you need prayer, please just post a request under the section entitled Prayer at the top right hand side of this site.

Lots of Love Mariana

Words for a Friend

In dialoging with a friend who is going through a rather tough time I said the following and thought it was a great thing to share as God gave me His words to speak to my friend.  Sometimes we don’t know just how powerful our words are to others, be they words of peace and love or words of destruction and anger.  Be mindful each day of your words and of what things you allow into your heart.  Because as Jesus stated in Matthew, what you have inside abundantly is what will come out of your flapper (your mouth)!

Here is what I said to my friend:

“Trust God blindly and without question.  Let prayer become your new best friend and the bible your tutor.  Any and everything you go through, always bring it back to Christ in prayer and in reading of the scriptures.”

Hoping you will have a greater revelation of the love and purpose of Christ in your life!

Signing off – Mariana Ochoa