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Silence and Stillness in a Loud World

Posted by Sara Bettinger on

Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10

You, Holy Spirit, are a whisper. A frequency so humble that our city noise would drown You out but for desperately longing hearts.”  Strahan Coleman, Prayer Vol. 1

Silence is slowly being shuffled into my life, and I wonder if you feel the same draw towards it these days. There’s a whole lot of loud out there - constant access to information, opinion and entertainment. I was getting gas a while ago and found that there was even a screen on the gas pump showing me ads, so I didn’t have to just stand there with nothing to do for the three minutes my gas was pumping. In the check-out line at the grocery store you can take out your phone or look at all the covers on the magazines. (Has anyone else chuckled at the random ones that always show up at Fred Meyer - like the magazine dedicated to chickens or the one wholly about firewood?) We have very little time where we are forced to just be quiet or still.

I’ve been doing a coaching program through Western Seminary and am learning a lot about how to deeply listen to people and how to create space to evoke awareness. One of the (kind of awkward) tools I’ve slowly grown accustomed to utilizing is silence. Letting silence settle for a bit after someone has shared something gives them some space to think and share more. The instructors use the acronym WAIT: Why Am I Talking? This helps us check ourselves to make sure that what we might say in a coaching session is really necessary and beneficial for the other person and not just to fill space or fill our own need.

I can’t help but connect this to my life with God. Do I like to fill space with books, learning, podcasts, prayers, music, etc? You bet! But how much of that is because I’m not so sure I want to tap into what’s simmering deep in my heart? What if I become aware of God’s presence and voice and it makes me uncomfortable or even worse - what if I’m hungry for His presence and voice and I don’t sense or hear it? It’s easier to just keep filling space with good things. But even good things can become noisy. 

In 2020, the World Health Organization listed noise pollution as the largest environmental cause of health problems after air pollution (European Environment Agency, March 2020). Strahan Coleman in his book, Beholding, considers, “Imagine a world where church communities could become harbors for noise refugees: people exhausted and burnt out not only by the noise pollution of our world but also by the social and political noise…” Interesting thought, right? Where do we start?

I’ve slowly, slowly been adding little bits of silence into my life over the last few years: keeping the car quiet for a few minutes after I drop off a kid, simply standing in line at the grocery store - looking at the people around me who make up my neighborhood, staring out the window at the giant redwood across the street for a few minutes, turning off the background noise at home (ok maybe that football game just gets muted). As I let silence punctuate my day, I notice that I become more aware of God with me - with us - and anxiety’s voice gets a little dimmer too. How do you punctuate your days with silence? What effect does it have in your life?

May we find a bit of silence and offer it to others in 2024.


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Gayle Laird Feb 20, 2024 9:43am

I can really resonate with this. I, too, have been craving silence so that I can actually learn to recognize God's voice whispering to me. I've started carrying little scripture cards with me, memorizing them, meditating on them, learning to recognize their relevance in my everyday life. I've just memorized Psalm 46, and it has been very meaningful and speaks volumes to me regarding things around me. I've just discovered this blog, and I thank you for sharing your thoughts.