Spiritual Discipline #7 - Silence & Solitude

Of all the spiritual disciplines I’ve written about so far, this one is among the most needed and most difficult. Our noisy, distraction-filled world makes discerning the voice of God incredibly difficult. We are very quick to fill any moment of silence with music, podcasts, social media, etc. There's a time and a place for these things, but they often overrun every spare moment. This week, I want to challenge us to the discipline of silence and solitude. This is exactly what it sounds like; it’s the practice of getting alone and getting quiet. Believers in our time and place are in desperate need of learning how to be still so we can better discern God’s voice and presence.
Jesus himself regularly practiced this discipline. Before choosing his 12 disciples, he spent a whole night alone in the desert hills (Luke 6:12). After John the Baptist’s death, “he withdrew from there in a boat to a lonely place apart” (Matt: 14:23). After a long night of ministry, “in the morning, a great while before day, he rose and went out to a lonely place” (Mark 1:35). These are just a few of the many examples we find throughout the Gospels. From Jesus we learn the importance of silence and solitude in general, but also how these times help us practice other disciplines: grieving, prayer, meditating on scripture, etc.
One simple way to begin this discipline is to take advantage of short blocks of time available to you. It could be 5 or 10 minutes before the kids get up or it could be switching off the radio during part or all of your commute. Instead of filling up a quiet moment choose to embrace it. In addition to short blocks like these, I would encourage you to try longer stretches of silence and solitude -  an hour or two a couple times a week or you could even take a silent retreat.
During my seminary days, one of my assignments was to take two 24-hour silent retreats. I was allowed my Bible, journal, a book on spiritual growth and nothing else. No phone, no TV, no distractions. Sounds daunting doesn’t it? It was, especially the first time around. For the first few hours, though free of my usual distractions, my mind still wandered all over the place. But as my mind and soul quieted, I had some rich times with the Lord, just being with him. Knowing that I had hours of time at my disposal I was able to practice a lot of the other disciplines I’ve discussed in this series without the thought of whatever was next on my schedule pressing in on me. I could dwell on a passage of scripture for an hour or simply enjoy God’s creation in his presence (one retreat I took to a cabin in the woods and the other was at a beach house off season).
It was about 8 or 10 hours into the first of these retreats that I had a major breakthrough with God. He showed me some things about my relationship with my dad that I had never realized before, things that were liberating and transformational, things that only God could have shown me (my dad had passed away a couple years prior). This incident is a great example of how God isn’t bound to our schedules. I can’t always expect him to “show up” during the ten-minute time slot I offer him once or twice a week. We need to regularly practice disciplines like silence and solitude, reducing our distractions and making us more aware of his presence. This leads us to better recognize the voice of the shepherd (John 10) and it helps us not miss when he wants to speak in more prominent ways.
Be still and know that I am God. - Psalm 46:10

To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools. - Eccles. 5:1

Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. - Eccles. 5:2

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. - Psalm 62:5

Sean's Picks

Moving the Bell - This week I read this short but powerful reflection on race issues from an Alliance missionary. May you be as moved as I was.

Bounded Set/Centered Set - This teaching from Ron Walborn (Dean of Alliance Theological Seminary where I attended) puts words to the form of Christianity many have grown up in and points us to the true Christianity of Jesus. He also shares a great story about Betzi Schroeder who many of you know.

Missions Spotlight:
Shannon Campbell

Shannon Campbell works with DiscipleMakers at Penn State University, introducing young people to Jesus and discipling Christ followers. See the link below to view Shannon's full end-of-school-year update including the great news that she's engaged!

Thank you for praying for Shannon and her ministry.

Click here for the full update.

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