Seventeenth-century French philosopher Blaise Pascal once observed, “The sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room.”
If our problems are hearing problems, then the solution to those problems is a prescription that is as old as the psalms. It’s so critical to our spiritual vitality that it’s worth meditating on one word or phrase at a time:
Be still, and know.
Be still, and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10).
Have you ever tried to quiet a loud room? Attempting to yell above the crowd usually doesn’t work, does it? It’s far more effective to shush the crowd with a shhh. That’s the method God employs. His whisper quiets us, calms us, stills us.
By definition, white noise is a sound that contains every frequency a human can hear. And because it contains every frequency, it’s very difficult to hear any specific frequency, especially the still small voice of God. As such, chronic noise may be the greatest impediment to our spiritual growth.
When our lives get loud, with noise filling every frequency, we lose our sense of being. We run the risk of turning into human doings rather than human beings. And when our schedules get busy, we lose our sense of balance, which is a function of the inner ear.
Can I go out on a limb?
Your life is too loud.
Your schedule is too busy.
That’s how and why and when we forget that God is God. And it takes very little to distract us. “I neglect God and His angels, for the noise of a fly,” said the poet John Donne. The solution? Stillness. Or more specifically, His still, small voice.
Silence is anything but passive waiting. It’s proactive listening. Noted author Henri Nouwen believed that silence was an act of war against the competing voices within us. And that war isn’t easily won because it’s a daily battle. But each day God’s voice gets a little louder in our lives until He’s all we can hear. He wrote, “Every time you listen with great attentiveness to the voice that calls you the Beloved, you will discover within you a desire to hear that voice longer and more deeply.”
The quietest room in the world is the anechoic chamber at Orfield Laboratories in Minneapolis. One-foot-thick concrete walls and three-foot-thick fiberglass acoustic wedges absorb 99.99 percent of sound. Background noise measures −9.4 decibels. All you hear in an anechoic chamber is the sound of your heart beating, blood circulating and lungs breathing. That’s the sound of silence, and it reminds us that it’s in God that “we live and move and have our being”(Acts 17:28).
If you want to hear the heart of God, silence is key.
If you want the Spirit of God to fill you, be still.
The psalmists didn’t have an anechoic chamber to retreat to, so they retreated to God. They referred to Him as their refuge, their fortress and their ever-present help in time of need. They spoke of the “shelter of the Most High” and the “shadow of the Almighty.” But my favorite descriptor might be the “hiding place.”
You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance (Psalms 32:7).
Did you know that God is singing songs of deliverance all around you all the time? You can’t hear them because they’re outside your range of hearing, but you’re surrounded by a sonic shield. Those songs of deliverance are powerful enough to break any bondage, overcome any addiction and solve any problem. Those songs are the reason no weapon formed against you will prosper. (see Isaiah 54:17)
The voice can reproduce only what the ear can hear. I’m not sure what problem you need to solve or what issue you need to resolve, but my prayer is that you’ll learn to discern His voice. When you do, His songs of deliverance can set you free!
Quit hiding from God.
Hide yourself in Him.
Mark Batterson is the lead pastor of National Community Church (NCC) in Washington, DC. He is the New York Times bestselling author of 20 books, including his latest, Win the Day: 7 Daily Habits to Help You Stress Less & Accomplish More and the children’s book God Speaks in Whispers, co-written with his daughter Summer. He and his wife, Lora, have three children and live on Capitol Hill.