Solitude and Silence in a Noisy World

I saw my chance. Could I do it? Could I get away with two minutes by myself?

My two toddlers were glued to the TV screen watching Sesame Street. Maybe I could actually go to the bathroom alone. Perhaps I could have a moment of solitude.

But thirty seconds after I closed the bathroom door I heard a tiny knock. “Who’s there?” I called out.

“It’s me—cutie pie,” said a sweet little two-year-old voice.

Solitude and silence are rare commodities for mothers of young children. Hungry babies cry. Toy fire trucks whir and beep. Silence? What’s that? Toddlers cling to our legs. Infants demand to be held. Solitude? Not going to happen.

Now I’m on the other side of mothering. My children are grown and have moved out of the house. My house is quiet—sometimes too quiet. I bumble around in my big empty nest with physical solitude and silence as frequent visitors. Yet my mind is often noisy and I struggle with finding meaningful quietness.

I believe solitude and silence are necessary in our relationship with God. I think of the story of Elijah in the Old Testament. The prophet met God in the desolate landscape of the wilderness. There he listened for God’s voice. When the Lord passed by, He wasn’t in the blast of a wind or in the rumble of an earthquake or in the crackle of a fire. God came in a low whisper.

My own world is filled with the whirlwinds of activity, the quaking of responsibilities, the fires of constantly seeking for more. These can easily drown out God’s low whisper to my soul. I often can’t hear Him speak over the cacophony of modern life.

So how can we find solitude and silence in the noise of our homes, in the clatter of our minds?

As a young mom, I needed to purposefully seek out times of physical solitude and silence. I’d ask my husband to take the kids to the park for an hour or have him stay home with them in the evening so I could take a walk. Even now, in my quiet home, I find I need to escape the shouts of to-do lists and the crowds of social media by finding a place outside my home to quiet my heart and listen to God.

Once I’m there, I embrace the words of Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God.” I once heard a speaker say the Hebrew form of that verse is like a parent shaking a child by the shoulders and saying, “Settle down!” Sometimes I need that stern reminder. My sinful nature doesn’t naturally settle down to listen. Satan wants to keep me so busy and occupied that I don’t hear God.

But I also think of Psalm 46:10 as God’s gentle invitation: Be still and know that I am God. Take a minute to quiet your mind. Hear my gentle words of love.

For me this can mean not rushing through my Bible reading to check it off on my list of things to accomplish that day, but silencing my thoughts and asking God, “What are You trying to tell me in Your Word today? What are You whispering to my soul?”

And if I can’t find an extended time of solitude and silence, being still means stopping for a moment to take in the sunrise and hear God murmur, “I made that for you today.” It’s shutting down the cacophony in my mind long enough to thank Him for that baby (even if she’s crying) , that toddler (even if he’s playing with that blasted fire truck), or that home (even if it’s a little too quiet).  

In this noisy world, we may not be able to find hours of solitude and silence, but we can purposely search out moments of listening, not talking. Of opening our hearts to hear God’s low whisper of love.

Solitude and silence aren’t merely physical commodities. They are what happen in our hearts when we quiet our souls to hear from God.

Sharla Fritz
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