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Silence

Mark Driscoll » Wisdom

It was a very normal day until I realized that I was actively destroying my own soul. The day began with my alarm jolting me awake. I immediately turned on my BlackBerry (it was 2007) to hear it chime for each voicemail and email that had been left while I slept.

I stepped into the shower where I listened to my waterproof radio. I then turned on the television to catch some news while I dressed. Driving to work I tuned in to some talk-radio banter. Throughout the day the chime on my laptop kept ringing as email arrived, and my cell phone continued to vibrate and ring on my hip.


There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven... a time to be silent and a time to speak... Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7b

Before long, I needed a break, and I put on my iPod (again 2007) to go for a walk. On the drive home, I again listened to the radio in an effort to drown out the blaring horns of frustrated fellow commuters. After eating dinner and tucking my five children into bed, I turned on the television to watch shows I had recorded on my Tivo. As I drifted off to sleep, it dawned on me that I had not had one minute of silence during my entire day.


It was possible, I realized, that I could live the rest of my life without ever again experiencing silence.


In that moment, God deeply convicted me that I was addicted to the false trinity of our day, the gods known as Noise, Hurry, and Crowds.

Wisdom from Jim Elliot

I remembered the words of missionary martyr Jim Elliot, who said, “I think the devil has made it his business to monopolize on three elements: noise, hurry, crowds . . . Satan is quite aware of the power of silence.”

I began to ponder what Jesus’ life might be like if He lived today. Would He be available to all of His followers twenty-four hours a day on His BlackBerry? Would He have left His phone on at the Last Supper and been continually interrupted by needless calls? Would He have failed to stop and speak to needy people because their weeping was not loud enough for Him to hear over His iPod as He hurried past them on His way to a meeting He was already late for?

In that moment I prayed, asking God for His wisdom and help to save me from myself. God answered my prayer and reminded me that Jesus often took periods of prayerful silence to hear from the Father and to ensure not that He was doing everything He could, but that He was doing only what was most important. For example, before beginning His public ministry, Jesus spent forty days fasting from food, people, and noise in an effort to prepare Himself to fully accomplish what God the Father had given Him to do on the earth. Moreover, the Bible says in Luke 5:16 that “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places.” Jesus spent considerable time alone in silence to pray, rest, and focus on what priorities He should be devoting His time and energy to. This helps to explain why, in just three short years of ministry, Jesus had a greater impact on history than anyone else who has ever lived.


The Bible also describes multiple benefits of purposeful silence, including:

  • hearing from God (1 Kings 19:11–13)
  • waiting patiently for the Lord to act (Lamentations 3:25–28)
  • worshiping God (Habakkuk 2:20)
  • knowing God better (Psalm 46:10)
  • praying effectively (Luke 5:16)

Since God convicted me of my addiction to noise, I have sought to conform my life more to the pattern of Jesus’, which has proven quite helpful. I try to spend at least five minutes an hour in silence, at least thirty minutes in uninterrupted silence each day, and a full day in silence once a month. During those times I find myself going for silent prayer walks to listen to God, writing in my journal, and sometimes doing nothing at all, which for me has become an act of faith that God is at work even when I am not. My prayer is that those reading this who, like me, are guilty of noise addiction can also experience the regular gift of silence because that is often where God is waiting for us. There was silence before God spoke the world into existence, and silence for forty days before Jesus began His public ministry, which may indicate that silence is what allows us to speak as God intends.


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