Silence/Solitude

Stacy Woodford

Silence/Solitude

In my early Christian life, I was your typical zealous new believer…very fiery, passionate, and painfully immature. Lots of knowledge and study – little love and experience. 

I’d consumed so much content in those early days. I listened to every John Piper, Matt Chandler, and Francis Chan sermon. I’d read all their books and found all of their bible study plans. I’d gained so much godly “information” and by the time I came home for my first winter break, I was ready to change my entire immediate family and high school friends when I saw them. Can any of you relate? 

A 3-hour drive home gave me enough time to zone out and be in a quiet place with God. By the time I actually pulled in the driveway I was FILLED with the SPIRIT. VERY FILLED – like in the POWER of the SPIRIT.

It would suck when, after arriving home, there would inevitably be SOMETHING that triggered the “old Stacy.” Something my mom would say, or something one of my brothers would say…there would always be SOMETHING that would RUIN the spiritual high I’d be on from my long drive home. Has that happened to you before? Sometime in the first 24 hours, I’d get triggered!! Then I’d need another hour again alone with God to get re-centered. 

As I think back on my walk with the Lord I realize, when thinking about interactions like this, that it is VITALLY important for a follower of Jesus to take intentional time with God and find a way to remove distractions, sit with him, and be filled by him away from everyone else in silence.

This is the point → We cannot experience the life God has designed you and me to live unless we prioritize alone time with God in silence and solitude.

It’s illustrated well before the beginning of Jesus’s ministry. After being baptized, Jesus is led into the wilderness And spends 40 days fasting, praying, and simply being alone with God (lots of atomic habits at once!). After being tempted by Satan and resisting him Jesus returns to civilization and begins his ministry in the POWER of the spirit (like me after a three-hour drive home from school – but way better). After a busy day of preaching and healing people, Jesus makes it a point to leave everyone at the end of the day and go back to his quiet place – away from all the people to be with the father JUST like he was in the wilderness. 

Jesus understood that it was VITALLY important for him to be alone, away from others with the Father in order to live the life the Father desires for him.

What is the practice of silence and solitude? John Mark Comer in The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry says: “Throughout church history, most of the master teachers of the way of Jesus have agreed: silence and solitude are the most important of all spiritual disciplines.”

Henry Nouwen says: “…without silence and solitude it is virtually impossible to live a spiritual life…we do not take spiritual life seriously if we do not set aside some time to be with God and listen to Him.”

Silence

  • External: no music, TV, podcasts, background (spiritual) music; just quiet 
  • Internal: ongoing chatter in our heads. The mental commentary about everything we experience. Our fantasies, the mini novels we write, hypothetical scenarios, and role-playing we imagine constantly. 
  • Quiet BOTH external and internal before God.

Solitude

  • Active engagement; not escape (not Netflix binging alone or social media scrolling)
  • Intentional openness to God; not isolation from others 
  • Simply: setting aside time to nourish your soul 
  • Not loneliness: Richard Foster in “Celebration of Discipline” says: “Loneliness is inner emptiness. Solitude is inner fulfillment.”

How seriously do you take time to sit alone and be silent before God? Let’s use Jesus as our example. Jesus was incredibly clear after his time away with the Father by himself. He is clear on which towns he is to go to next, who the twelve disciples will be. So many of us want to get clear on “where we believe God is calling us” and “what God wants us to do.” Perhaps we need to get alone with the Father long enough to listen for him.

Silence and solitude (if we have it in our lives) typically is the first thing to go rather than our first go-to when life gets busier. 

We are missing out on experiencing the full life Jesus offers us, that he bought for us with his life, his blood – the life that is modeled for us in the Gospels unless we set aside time to be alone with God. I’m going to spare you the stats about our society being overstimulated, overworked, infinity at our fingertips the way I normally do when I preach. I think most of us in the room would agree that being alone, being silent, just by yourself (much less by yourself and seeking God) is not in the mainstream. This HAS BEEN changing though. Mindfulness as the practice of bringing your attention to the present moment is becoming more and more mainstream. Lots of people realize our culture’s prescription for how to live a “good life” is missing something and driving us to have normalized low (or high grade) depression, anxiety, frustration, etc. And mindfulness is great – it’s very similar to the practice of silence and solitude practiced by Jesus – it’s just missing the best part – the awareness of God himself!

I want each and every one of us – GOD WANTS each and every one of us not to live lives on the surface – but from the core of our being, a place of power from being silent in the Father’s presence. 

Cleveland Clinic Published an article in 2020: An Ode to Silence: “Silence offers opportunities for self-reflection and daydreaming, which activates multiple parts of the brain. It gives us time to turn down the inner noise and increase awareness of what matters most. And it cultivates mindfulness — recognition, and appreciation of the present moment. We can use calm, quiet moments to tap into a different part of the nervous system that helps shut down our bodies’ physical response to stress.”