By Jodi Thomas
Muddy water becomes clear if you only let it be still for a while. –Dallas Willard
I’m a doer by nature. I like lists, and I absolutely adore crossing things off said list. On any personality test, my personality is the one that takes action, the one that gets things done. And this has been no different in my spiritual life. I got really good at cranking out spiritual activity. But about 15 years ago, I hit a wall. We experienced a life crisis that brought me to the end of myself. I had heard my friends talking about going on a “silent retreat,” and I was intrigued. The anxious and negative chatter inside my head was so relentless, perhaps a silent retreat could usher in some relief. So I went. And I kept going. Year after year after year. And honestly, silence and solitude have changed my life. It has been the key in transforming my soul, my heart, and my peace of mind.
Solitude and silence are two disciplines of abstinence. This culture is addicted to noise, to distraction, to performance. If solitude—being alone—and silence—to escape from noise—were animals, they’d be on the extinct list. And yet, what our culture needs—what we need—more than anything is to get away from the insanity, to simply stop. . . and just be.
One of the 10 commandments is to honor the Sabbath. This basically means that God mandated that 1/7 of our time should be spent in rest, in doing nothing. That should show us how vitally important rest is in our lives. God made us human beings, not human doings. Dallas Willard, in The Divine Conspiracy, says, “The cure for too-much-to-do is solitude and silence, for there you find you are safely more than what you do. And the cure of loneliness is solitude and silence, for there you discover in how many ways you are never alone.”
We discover many things in solitude and silence; Willard goes on to say, “One is that you have a soul. Another, that God is near and the universe is brimming with goodness.” For me, it would take an entire book to chronicle all I have learned in solitude and silence. But some of the most important things I’ve learned are:
to quit doing. . . and to just sit and be
to be patient to receive from God what He wants
to give me. . .
to hear from God. . .
to be patient and gentle with myself—which helps me be patient and gentle with others
how much God loves me. . . and loves those around me.
Be still and Know that I am God.”
What do you do in solitude and silence? Well as far as typical productivity, not a whole lot. The point is to just sit. . . and be. Whether it’s 15 minutes or 3 days (of course, if it’s for days, you wouldn’t sit for three days straight!). But you take a break from “getting things done” and do things that fill your soul instead.
My favorite thing to do in solitude and silence is to sit with a passage from the Bible. I read it a few times, and then I just wait and see what the passage whispers to my heart. God still speaks very clearly, and most of the time, for me, it is through His Word. It’s amazing what we can hear if we just quit talking. If this sounds intriguing to you, I found a great resource, Meeting God in Scripture: 40 Guided Meditations by Jan Johnson. Time and time again, God fills the vacuum in my soul with His reassuring words, “I love you.” “All is well.” “I’ve got this.” “Trust me.”
Jesus practiced solitude and silence regularly. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed (Luke 5:16). If God Himself needed time to withdraw and pray, how much more so do we?!
Do you feel disconnected from yourself? From your heart? From God? Spend some time in silence and solitude and a passage from the Bible, like Psalm 139, Matthew 11:28-29, or Luke 12:22-31. Let God whisper to your heart what He knows you need to hear.
I love this passage from Isaiah 30:15: In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength. These words are true. I have found them to be true in my own life. When I am quiet and rest in Him, He strengthens my heart and my spirit is refreshed. I hope you will find them true, too.