11 Mar Finding God in the Silence

Silence. It is something which, I think we are all a little uncomfortable with on some level. When talking friends and family we all try to avoid “awkward” silences. At times it can even seem as though we are scared of silence. But what are we afraid of? Why is silence bad? What reason do we have for avoiding silence?

In our fast paced and busy lives we find ways to ensure that we are never exposed to silence. When we drive we listen to the radio, when we are at home we watch TV or surf the internet. Even when working we quite often listen to some music to help pass the time. Even times of worship and prayer such as adoration often include a brief talk or light music so that we are never left in complete silence.

I think it is natural for us, on some level, to avoid silence because in the silence we are confronted with our innermost thoughts and we are afraid that we may not like the thoughts that are revealed to us in silence. In the silence we see a different side of ourselves and we can no longer justify our weakness and brokenness. Silence forces us to come face-to-face with the reality that we are fallen creatures in need of a Saviour. I think that the reason we fear silence is because we know we need God, but we are afraid that He will not be there for us. We are afraid that there is nothing in the silence. That all we will find is an empty void.

If we allow ourselves time for silent prayer but we don’t experience God in those moments it can leave us feeling empty and alone facing the truth of who we are with all the masks we wear stripped away. We are naked and we are ashamed just like Adam and Eve in the garden, so we hid ourselves with the fig leaves of constant noise and distraction, so that we never have to confront our wounds and sins.

What if we did experience God in the silence? What if we opened our minds and our hearts to Him each day through periods of silent prayer and reflection so that He could speak to us and share His plan for our lives? God loves each one of us so much, but He cannot act in our lives if we do not let Him in. In Scripture there is a story about Elijah meeting God on Mount Horeb. God is not found in the strong wind, the fire, or the earthquake but God was found in a “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:9-14). God rarely reveals Himself and His plans for our lives by appearing to us or in a loud voice from the sky. More often He speaks to us in a quiet whisper so in order to hear Him we need to quiet ourselves and enter into times of silence so that we can listen for His voice.

The philosopher Blaise Pascal once said “all of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” I think what he is getting at here is that only silence can we discover who we really are and what we can be. Each one of us was created by God for greatness, but we can only achieve greatness by striving each day to draw closer to God, and the only way to draw closer to God is to allow Him to reveal Himself to us little by little in the silence.

Matthew Kelly, a Catholic author and speaker, encourages people to spend ten minutes each day in, what he calls, “the classroom of silence.” Over the past few months I have been trying to follow his suggestion and take time each day for silent reflection. In the beginning what I experienced was a constant struggle to quiet my mind. I would be alone in a room with no noise but my thoughts were running wild thinking about the stuff I needed to do, or what events were coming up, or different family commitments. There was so much on my mind it was hard to enter into the silence. I think our minds are like a muscle and they need to be exercised by discipline in order for us to control them. In my experience this is a slow process but by sticking with it for the past few months I have had some success with quieting my mind and entering into the periods of quiet reflection with my mind clear. This is still something I need to keep working on but I am convinced that the commitment I made to spend ten minutes a day in silence has been worthwhile.

I would encourage all of you to try spending ten minutes alone each day in silence. It will be hard, but stick with it, and you will see results.