16th April 2020
On Monday evening, I sat and listened as my wife shared with me her concern about how much we are using our phones during this time. She felt that we were denying our young son our full attention as we are distracted by the ping of the phone every few minutes.
Like many of you, we have been working from home over the last few weeks and it has meant that it is very easy to never fully switch off from work or give anything (or anyone) our full attention.
It feels rather ironic that at the start of February I shared on a Sunday morning, the following excerpt from an article published in the New York Times:
Just look around you — at the people crouched over their phones as they walk the streets, or drive their cars, or walk their dogs, or play with their children. Observe yourself in line for coffee, or in a quick work break, or driving, or even just going to the bathroom. Visit an airport and see the sea of craned necks and dead eyes. We have gone from looking up and around to constantly looking down.1
We might not be walking the streets now, but I find myself looking down at my screen more than ever now.
Now technology has a wonderful ability to connect us. I am so thankful that over the last week I have been able to see the faces of friends and family through the use of my laptop and phone. We have been able to use our website, email and social media to keep connected as a church family.
But I think in this moment, technology has the chance to rob us of the opportunity to meet God afresh. John Mark Comer, speaks of the digital age we live in:
The great threat isn’t the loss of quiet, but the digital age is robbing us of the ability to be present. Present with others, present in the moment and present with God.2
In this moment, the desire to be connected to the outside world could in fact be preventing from engaging with the moment, engaging with those in our household and most importantly, engaging with God.
Whether you are busier than ever or have lots of time in this season, I believe God desires to meet with us during this time. In this strange time, God invites us to be present with Him, in a way which transforms our lives. One of the spiritual disciplines that we have spoken of as a church, which I really think will help us be present with God, is the discipline of silence.
We find Jesus embrace the discipline of silence throughout his ministry on earth:
- Before he starts his ministry, he spends 40 days in the desert experiencing silence and solitude (Matthew 4:1-11)
- Before he chose the twelve disciples, he spends the entire night alone in the hills (Luke 6:12)
- He spends the night alone after hearing of John the Baptist’s death.
- He regularly withdrew to spend time in prayer, heading into the hills, going up mountains and eventually ending in complete solitude in the Garden of Gethsemane prior to his death.
One of the reasons that we see Jesus embracing silence is so he could enjoy intimacy with his heavenly father; to be present with God and to allow God to speak.
Jesus instructs us in John 15:4-5
4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
There is an invitation to get away from the noise of life and abide in Him. Relax into His goodness, let Him speak to you and hear what He has to say.
We can’t be fruitful unless we are spending time with Jesus, in intimacy and being changed by Him.
However, spending time with God can be uncomfortable. As we spend time with God, we see who He is, but we also see who we are. The truth of the way we live, and our character comes out. To spend time with God is to change.
When I am not living in a way that honours God then I want to avoid intimacy with Him because I feel shame or don’t want to embrace the change required. But the reality is that stuff in our hearts will always come out. We can let it leak out and cause damage to ourselves and those around us. Or we embrace the intimacy on offer and let the truth of who we are come out in the safe place of God’s love where transformation can take place.
David Mathis says:
One benefit of silence is simply searching the depths of our own souls, asking what our blind spots have become in the rush of everyday life. In the busyness, is there anything important I’m neglecting? How am I doing in my various roles? Where do I need to refocus?3
During this time, I get to come before God, be present with Him, experience His presence and get changed by Him. Let’s not miss the opportunity to draw near to God and be present with Him at this time.
Why not watch the video below for some helpful tips for embracing the discipline of silence:
Don’t you feel a tug, a yearning to sink down into the silence and solitude of God? Don’t you long for something more? Doesn’t every breath crave a deeper, fuller exposure to his Presence? It is the Discipline of solitude that will open the door. You are welcome to come in and “listen to God’s speech in his wondrous, terrible, gentle, loving, all-embracing silence.”4
1. Andrew Sullivan in the New York Times article ‘I used to be a human being’, published on 16th September 2016.
2. John Mark Comer preaching the message ‘Jesus and the lonely place’ at Bridgetown Church on 15th January 2017: https://bridgetown.church/teaching/silence-solitude/jesus-and-the-lonely-place/.
3. David Mathis in his book ‘Habits of Grace’.
4. Richard Foster in his book ‘Celebration of Discipline’.