“Sit over there and be quiet” that sounds like a punishment a toddler would receive, doesn’t it? Being alone and being quiet doesn’t strike us as something good from God. Yet, I think in an age of noise, these can be perfect gifts for us. I want to be clear, though; these are less God’s ways of growing us and more clearing room to access those ways. Let’s define our terms and dig in.
Silence is volunteering to take time to stop talking. This is in the form of audible talking, but a time of silence may be used to journal, pray silently, etc. Solitude is volunteering to take time to withdraw from others. This could last a few minutes or days.
Both of these can be used to spend time with God. Don Whitney says that these disciplines complement being with other Christians. Without silence and solitude, we are shallow, and without fellowship with others, we are stagnant. Silence and solitude can help us bring something to the table when we talk with others. Plus, relationships with other people can help us get out of our own head – in a good way.
Reasons for Silence and Solitude
Follow Jesus’ Example
It might be easy to fall into the idea that you need to give, give, give, give. While it is important to serve, spend time with others, and disciple, we also need to recognize the importance of making sure that we are resting in the Lord. We cannot feel guilty about that, because the one who did the world the most good, rested. Jesus took time away from his earthly ministry to get alone. Listen to what the Bible says:
Matthew 14:23 says, “And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone.”
Mark 1:35 says, “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.” The passage is talking about big crowds waiting for Jesus. Jesus gets up early so that we can have undistracted time.
Luke 4:42 tells us that some tried to keep Jesus from leaving. This should give us hope. We do not need to do it all; we need to understand our own humanity. If Jesus needed time away, time alone, then how much more do we!
To Hear the Voice of God Better
In Scripture, God didn’t come to Elijah in something loud and over the top, but in a gentle whisper (1 Kings 19:11-13). It isn’t necessary to kill all the noise to hear from God. But, the noise in our life can drown out the more essential things. How often can we read our Bible and lose focus? Instead of thinking about its meaning and how to apply it, we become distracted, and our attention is lost.
Sometimes my wife asks me to look at her when she is talking. It’s necessary at times! Otherwise, I am distracted by a ton of other things. The distraction hurts our communication with one another. Often to hear from God means looking at him by eliminating distracting voices. This can happen through silence and solitude.
We also need to recognize that we are not looking for a mystical experience like an audible voice from God. He has given us everything we need in the Bible.
A Way to Express Faith and Worship
Habakkuk 2:20 says, “But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.”
Zephaniah 1:7 says, “Be silent before the Lord GOD! For the day of the LORD is near;”
In both these verses, the proper response in worship is silence. It is an imperfect analogy, but I think of the scene in the movie Elf, where everyone is singing to produce Christmas cheer, and then Santa’s sleigh flies over them. At that moment nobody can say anything. The news anchor is asking the reporter questions, and she just stands speechless.
Do you long for that type of awe before God? Do you ask Him to show himself to you so you can just stand in shock of how amazing He is?
George Whitefield records an experience of his like this, “God was pleased to pour into my soul a great spirit of supplication, and a sense of His free, distinguishing mercies so filled me with love, humility, and joy and holy confusion that I could at last only pour out my heat before him in an awful silence. I was so full that I could not well speak.”
Sometimes words cannot contain what we want to express. Augustine once wrote that our thoughts about God are often better than our words about God and even they fall short. “God can be thought about more truly than he can be talked about, and he is more truly than he can be thought about” (De Trinitate, VII.3)
David, in Psalm 62, says that he was waiting in silence on the Lord. For him, there was a sense of dependency connected to his silence.
Help Change Perspective
We can be so glued to the here and now. The stresses of the moment or the opportunities in the future can drive everything that we do. When we slow down and get away, it helps us get a bigger perspective.
We can also be self-deceived. It is easy to craft a fake image of ourselves online or with a particular group of friends. But when we are alone before the God who knows our very thoughts that can be unsettling. Yet, it can also help us realize our sin so we can confess it to the one who loves us.
Help Control Our Speech
For those of you who are talkers, silence can be a gift. The Book of Ecclesiastes tells us that “There is a time to be silent and a time to speak” Proverbs 17:27-28 says this “Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.” Making time for silence can help us learn self-control over our speech.
Practice of Silence and Solitude
Some of you may call your daily time with the Lord “quiet time” or “alone time with God.” There are hints of this practice even in the words that we use for our regular time with God. I encourage you if you do not have a regular rhythm in your life of having daily time spent with God away from distractions to get one.
This could mean that if you do devotions on your phone or tablet that you put it on do not disturb mode, so you are not interrupted during that time. If you have the Bible downloaded, it might make sense to put it in airplane mode. That way, you won’t be distracted to quick jump on social media, you still could, but the extra step might prevent you from doing so.
A retreat is an extended time that is scheduled to get away and be with the Lord. This might be hard right now because of where you are in life. I am a parent of young children, and it makes this practice challenging to incorporate. If that is you, it could be something once or twice a year. Your spouse or someone else watches the children while you getaway to be alone with the Lord. The challenge with this practice is that the more hectic your life, the harder this practice will be, but the more needed it is.
This practice is not meant to turn us into monks. It is so that we grow in Christ and can pour into other people’s lives. Our deep relationship with God overflows to those around us. We must stay balanced in all these disciplines. That doesn’t mean that we need 10 hours of silence and solitude a day, 10 hours of preaching, 10 hours of evangelism.
Let me remind you that just like the other practices, this needs to be understood is not something that we are doing to earn God’s favor. I would say that the desire to know God more deeply is a display of God’s work in someone’s heart. Naturally, we don’t want to know God more. We don’t want to grow in our relationship with God. We do not want to be away from distractions in this life. Distractions help us avoid the big questions, the hard things that we need to take to God.
What about You?
Are you making time to get alone? Stuck at home on your phone or in front of the TV is not silence and solitude. Silence and solitude take work in a constantly distracted age, but it’s worth it. Seek His face today.
 Donald S Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (Colorado Springs, Colo.: NavPress, 1997), 184.
 These reasons are adapted from Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines, 185-194.
 As quoted in: Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines,187.
 Ecc 3:7