Hearing God When Life Is Noisy | 03 Dec 12, Joe Sucher

Suggestions for pursuing silence & solitude

 Hearing God When Life is Noisy


1.       Finding times & places

          It could be anywhere.  We can create an “inner room” in our heart.  If possible, however, peaceful, physical surroundings can help.  It may be a particular room or corner of a room.  Perhaps a patio or secluded garden path.  Whatever we choose, it needs to be a regular commitment.  Decide how long you are going to be still.  Set a timer or alarm so you won’t worry about being late for some other engagement.  Keep the time simple and don’t be tempted to fill it with your own petitions or reading.  Give the time to God and be still.  Give Him an opportunity to speak to you.

          Of course, God can also use the few moments of space offered to Him in the middle of a hectic day.  It may be stopping for a few moments at the kitchen sink, closing your eyes in the corner of a commuter train or at your desk.


2.       Settling Down

          Begin by choosing a comfortable but alert posture.  Sit quietly for a moment, letting your body settle down.  Let your breathing find its rhythm.  Deepen your breathing slightly (when we are busy our breathing is often shallow).  Let your body relax into this rhythm for a while.

          Breath in with the prayer “Lord Jesus Christ”.  Welcome Christ into the depths of your being like the fresh air that is filling your lungs.  As you breathe out, silently pray, “Have mercy on me.”  Invite Christ to clear out the clutter and noise within, creating an inner room, where you can meet the Father in secret.  Part of the gift of this prayer is that it can be used anywhere and at any time.  Let it punctuate your day.


3.       More Ideas For Solitude

          Solitude, time alone, is a way of pacing and interpreting our activity in the light of God’s love and will for us.  People vary enormously in terms of personality, lifestyle and commitments.  The following suggestions may help you to make a practical response in a way that is appropriate to you at the moment.  One further point to make.  If your diary is already cluttered, it will do no good trying to squeeze in “space for God” as another commitment.  You may first have to ask the question, “What am I going to give up to make this possible?”

          Daily and weekly:  Are there times and places where I could punctuate my day or week with moments of stillness, pausing, drawing breath, listening to God?  Finding space first thing in the morning is not practical for everyone.  For some people the journey to and from work can be a good opportunity.  The lunch break may offer a once-a-week chance to sit in a local church or in a park.  It may even be possible at work itself.

          If you are at home there may be times in the day when you can stop and “center on God”.  Meal times make a natural stopping point for some people.  Why not light a candle and just sit quietly as you eat - without the television or radio.  Some couples every so often take turns at caring for children in order to give a few hours space for the other.

          One useful resource for these pauses in the day is to have a small notebook in which you have written down verses of scripture, prayers, poems and reflections - anything that helps to give you a starting point  in the silence.

          Longer intervals:  Some people block a day a month, or every other month in their diaries, for a longer period of quiet. 

          Remember that it is not the quantity of time that matters, but the quality.  Living and praying have become so separated in our culture and experience that our efforts at the kitchen sink tend to feel second best.  In fact Brother Ramon, in his book “A Hidden Fire”, makes the point that these are among the best places to begin to seek solitude.  “Unless you can find God in the secret place of the heart in the midst of everyday noise and business, then physical solitude will be threatening and negative.”

4.       Problems

          A.)      The “noise from within” and the “sifting silence” of the Holy Spirit

          We can feel overwhelmed by a flood of random thoughts and emotions welling up from inside.   It makes it difficult to concentrate and relax.

          You may be someone who finds silence quite natural.  You may enjoy being on your own.  But not everyone finds it so easy to get into, and for others of you it may be quite a struggle.   If that is the case, don’t give up - you are not a failure!

          If our activity and business has been a way of avoiding deeper questions and concerns, then we may feel, for a while at least, as if we are standing in the path of a dam that has burst.  We are often so cluttered inside with the accumulations of years - hopes and fears, plans and ideas, light and darkness - that the Holy Spirit has to first of all clear a space.  In the Quaker tradition the presence of the Holy Spirit within us is described as a “sifting silence”.  It is disturbing to experience it, but this clearing work is deeply loving.  Just because we feel in turmoil it does not mean that God is too!  The neglect of our inner world may mean that a lot of suppressed energy is locked up within us.  Its strength and vigor can be alarming when we meet it for the first time. 

          B.)      Getting restless and irritable

          This is a very common reaction to being alone in silence.  We have cut across our normal busy lives and stopped for a while.  Time alone like this refuses us all our usual securities, our ways of achieving and feeling we are useful.  Here there is no one to chatter with, no television, no telephone to cover up the emptiness.  We are left feeling rather disarmed and powerless.  This solitude and silence is assaulting all our ideas of “usefulness”.  It is inviting us to surrender our own small worlds and our preoccupation.  We are being drawn into something much bigger than ourselves.  Solitude humbles us.  In its own way it says to us, “You are here”.  This is where we start from - and all these hopes, insecurities, emptiness, and frustrations are the raw materials of who we are.  We need to find a way of offering them to the renewing, recreating work of God.

          It is important to realize that all these noises and voices and restlessness within are part of us and our world.  In solitude we allow all those fragments to come before us.   If we only treat them as nuisances or enemies we are rejecting people and situations that are part of us.  We have not come into solitude to escape from our world.  In solitude we will learn to love it all the more truly.

          C.)      Don’t measure your progress by feelings

          The important thing is to resist the temptation to measure our progress in prayer and silence by “how I am feeling”.  The presence and work of God in our lives is something much deeper than feelings.  Of course, feelings are important, but they are unreliable guides as to whether we are “getting anywhere” in God’s presence.  Our emotions and passions need as much converting as the rest of us.  Something much more profound is going on.  In the solitude we will discover to our surprise that we are beginning to meet ourselves and our world in a new way.  It will be exciting and perhaps a bit frightening.  We must choose how we respond.

5.       Closing Thoughts

          Jesus always taught that the most important things in life are not found on the surface.  Although clues are everywhere, the Kingdom of God is never so revealed as to be obvious.  It is like treasure hidden in a field or the pearl hidden, improbably, in the rough hard shell of an oyster.  Its power is concealed in the tiniest things. - the seed that will one day be the greatest of trees, the small piece of leaven that will swell the whole batch of dough.  And the Kingdom of God is revealed to those who are explorers, who knock and seek and ask and dig beneath the surface until the treasure of life is uncovered.  To be alive in this world is to participate in mystery.  If the disciplines of silence and solitude remind us of nothing else, it is that we are part of something much bigger than ourselves.  All that we see barely touches the greater world of what is unseen.

          We are not seeking silence.  Not even the insights and stillness that silence brings.  We are seeking God.  God is a friend of silence for “only silence shares something of God’s infinity”.  In the midst of our daily lives we seek the eternal source of all life.  And Jesus tells us that he seeks us too.  Our silence is a humble confession of our mortality, and a celebration of the glory of divine mystery.  Our silence, in the midst of life, is the silence of loving and longing for the living God.

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