Most people don’t intentionally seek out noise or busyness; it finds us! Our lives loudly demand everything from us, making it difficult to cultivate quiet moments. As a result, we become over-stimulated and spiritually undernourished. Silence seems unattainably precious, and like Elijah in his cave, we must learn to distinguish the still small voice of God despite the thundering storm. Take, for example, the following story:
It’s 5:55 AM. A distant sound pulls you out of a deep sleep, growing louder by the second. Repetitive and obnoxious, it beeps until you are alert enough to realize what it is: the alarm. Quickly and forcefully, you hit the button, hoping not to wake the children. Rolling over in bed, you close your eyes and try to catch the last few precious moments of sleep before the day begins. But this is not to be. Seconds later, the coffeemaker in the kitchen begins its noisy morning grind. Its only redemptive quality is the aromatic smell that will soon waft up the stairs to lure you out of bed.
By now the children have stirred, and the baby, aware of her hunger, is beginning to whimper. If she is not answered soon her whimpering will become a spine-chilling scream. You grab your robe and hurry to the bedroom to cuddle and soothe her. With two other sleepy children in tow, you head downstairs in search of the coffee you desperately need. Cup in hand, you turn on your mobile device and settle the children with their breakfasts. The children are peppering you with questions: “Why can’t we have more cereal? Mommy, he took all the milk!” Distracted, you glance at the phone that is now beeping and vibrating in your hand. Your boss has sent you an urgent message: an important client is coming to the office today and she needs you at work earlier than usual. Not wasting a moment, you text your E.T.A. to the boss and then begin firing off emails and tweeting the sitter, who will need to arrive earlier as well.
Coffee finished, you enter high gear, dressing the kids, listening for the bus, answering the stream of texts from your boss, and shaking rattles at the baby to entice her to stay occupied.
By 7:15 AM, your brain is already on overload, and the level of noise in your household is such that you cannot truly entertain a thought of your own. You decide you’ll have to wait on having a quiet time, because who has the ability to tune in to God’s voice when there are already so many others clamoring for attention? Thanking God for His unconditional love, you kiss your children goodbye, put them on the bus, and race to work to start another non-stop day of activity.
Does any of this sound familiar? With a few modifications, this story could have easily described my life a few years ago. So before I went to bed at night, I began shutting OFF my alarm clock and asking the Holy Spirit to wake me at the right time in the morning. Sound crazy? He always did. There is a biblical precedent for this. Isaiah 50:4 says:
The Lord God has given Me
the tongue of those who are instructed
to know how to sustain the weary with a word.
He awakens Me each morning;
He awakens My ear to listen like those being instructed.
I found that He would often wake me a few minutes earlier, when I could quietly hear His thoughts and have a few moments of my own before everyone else woke up. This set the tone for the day and helped me not to feel like I was under the gun from the moment the day started. I much preferred this to the blaring alarm!
David describes similar experiences in the Psalms, and many believers love to have a quiet time in the mornings, as early as necessary, to focus their minds on the Word and develop their relationship with Him. I know of one married couple who will not even speak to each other until they have each had their own time in the Word; they come together afterward for a “couples’ quiet time” before breakfast. That’s dedication!
Some of the time management techniques familiar to professionals work well spiritually, too. Successful employees schedule set times during their workday to check email and social media sites, rather than being jarred into distraction every time a notification sounds on their computer or phone. Blocking off an “appointment” at lunchtime (or whenever you need it most) is an excellent way to ensure you can pray or just be still. This will recharge your spirit and energize you for the next tasks you must accomplish, and you will know that you are working with, not against, the Lord.
Daniel is a biblical example of this kind of appointment-setting. Three times a day, even in the midst of acute persecution, he chose to set aside time to worship God. It was obvious to his peers, who became jealous and wanted to ruin him, but it was also obvious to the king, who favored Daniel and appreciated his excellent work ethic. We know this because the king was actually relieved when God spared Daniel from the lion’s den. (See Daniel 6 for the full story).
We don’t have to be as obvious as Daniel was; in fact, the Bible encourages us to go into our “inner room” to pray in secret. With this command comes a reward: the Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:6). Ask the Lord to show you how to access your “inner room,” or “secret place,” and He will give you creative ideas.
Susanna Wesley, the famous preacher’s mother, used to throw her apron up over her head when her children were young in order to shut out the distractions and pray! There is nothing the Father would like better than to help you find this secret place, because it is in His interest to do so, as well. He longs for deeper relationship with you, and He will move heaven and earth to reach you if you ask. Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” I know from experience that we can legitimately ask God to both make us hungry for Him AND to fill us with the satisfaction of knowing Him!
Finally, it is in the secret place of silence and stillness that we connect with God’s peace. In fact, peace is the reward promised to those who will pray:
Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 4:6-7, HCSB)
By exchanging our anxious thoughts for His more peaceful perspective, we reposition ourselves in a higher place spiritually – one that is strategic and powerful. Our ears become attuned to His voice and our spirits become more sensitive to the direction of the Holy Spirit. We step into the frequencies of heaven which supersede the frequencies of earth. By staying in sync with His voice, we can do things His way, in His timing, and with the guarantee of His protection and deliverance. We know we will be in the right place at the right time!
It is interesting to me that Paul writes in Romans: “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” (Romans 16:20, HCSB). At first, it would seem that crushing Satan would be a loud and terrible battle; after all, he is the ruler of this world and a formidable foe. But one of the weapons God chooses to defeat the work of Satan in our lives today is peace. It will certainly take a war to send the enemy to his eternal doom, but until that time, it is clear that the peaceful condition of our spirits will give us a measurable advantage.
Psalm 119:165 says, “Those who love Your law have great peace, And nothing causes them to stumble.” May the secret place of silent communion with God become your greatest weapon.