I had to laugh when I received the email asking me to write about the spiritual discipline of silence and solitude. It reminded me that God does indeed have the best sense of humor.
Why the laughter? Well, I’m a mother of four boys who range in age from two to fourteen. Yes, toddlers and teenagers. My husband and I have also recently become the guardians of a 16-year-old young woman who is newly released from the foster care system. So to say our lives feel chaotic is an understatement. Over the last several weeks I have wept daily (sometimes hourly) about the brokenness in our world and its impact on our children. I have felt more out of control and more overwhelmed by circumstances than I can ever remember as a mother. I have been buzzing around attempting to fix the unfixable and orchestrate the impossible for a young woman who was not born into our family but whom God clearly called us to bring into our home. And yet, with our “yes” has come a season of anything but silence and solitude.
So why would the Lord put the invitation in front of me to write a post about the spiritual discipline of silence and solitude? Maybe it’s because He sees my lack of it and my deep need for it.
Is it possible, I ask myself, to weave silence and solitude into a time of chaos, and honestly, crisis? Even without the new dynamic of the hurting young woman in our home, I wonder, How does a mother who has her hands full with the gift of children carve out time for things such as silence and solitude? And how do we encourage one another to seek out space for silence and solitude without it becoming another “to do” that brings guilt to the already guilt-ridden mom who feels she already isn’t doing enough?
And of course, struggling to create space for silence and solitude doesn’t only apply to mothering. It’s just as relevant for those of us who feel under-pressure and overwhelmed because of our finances, our marriage, our singleness, our sickness, our addictions, our extended families, and our stressful work lives. When we’re doing everything to hold all things together and we’re functioning in what feels like chaos and crisis, is silence and solitude even possible?
As I’ve prayed about this and wrestled with the lack of silence and solitude in my own life in this season, the Holy Spirit has brought to mind several passages that have encouraged me and guided me in truth. I’d love to share just two of those passages with you.
First, I’ve been reminded of what Paul wrote in 1 Colossians 1:16-17: “For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
Through Paul’s words I am reminded that we are more likely to forgo the discipline of silence and solitude when we forget that God has already gone before all the chaos we face and God, not us, is the One who holds all things together in the midst of our crisis. Remembering God is most crucial in the very times that we think we don’t have any time for silence and solitude.
Getting quiet and alone creates space for us to connect with God in His Word and converse with Him in prayer. Of course, God doesn’t require quietness and aloneness to communicate with us. But the quiet and alone times are often the sweetest times in His Word and in prayer, the primary ways in which He reveals Himself to us. Which leads me to the second passage that also comes to mind with much conviction from the Holy Spirit. It’s The Message paraphrase of Isaiah 30:15:
“God, the Master, The Holy of Israel, has this solemn counsel: ‘Your salvation requires you to turn back to me and stop your silly efforts to save yourselves. Your strength will come from settling down in complete dependence on me— The very thing you’ve been unwilling to do.’”
I feel like we need to read that passage again, or at least break it down. The wisdom we glean from Isaiah is too good to gloss over. Here are the takeaways:
- Turn back to God.
- Stop your silly efforts to save yourselves (or others!)
- Settle down in complete dependence on God.
- Do what you’ve been unwilling to do.
And so Lord, we pray. We come to You in repentance and with grateful hearts. Lord, we confess our foolishness and our unwillingness to be silent before You. We confess our desire to control circumstances and determine outcomes with our best efforts and in our own strength. God, You are our good and faithful and sovereign Father. You are all knowing and all powerful. Give us the courage, Lord, to settle down in complete dependence on You when the enemy whispers the lie, “You don’t have time for silence and solitude with God because you have too much to do.” Lord, let it be said of us that our hope is completely in who You are and Your faithfulness to do what You’ve said You will do. Lord, again we ask for the courage to seek silence and solitude so we can hear Your voice and see Your hand at work in circumstances that feel too big and too hopeless and too far gone. We will turn back to You. We will surrender to Your saving grace in our lives. We will settle down in silence and solitude before You. We will acknowledge that You are God and we are Your people, and in rest and repentance we will have everything we need to navigate the complexities and challenges of this life. You have not failed us yet, and You will not fail us now. In the powerful name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.
Jeannie Cunnion is the author of Parenting the Wholehearted Child and Mom Set Free and a frequent speaker at women’s conferences and parenting events around the country. Her passion is encouraging women to live in the freedom for which Christ has set us free – a message her own heart needs to be reminded of daily. Jeannie holds a Master’s degree in Social Work, and her writing has been featured on outlets such as The Today Show, Fox News, The 700 Club, and Focus on the Family. As a self-described grace-clinger, her writing is woven with humility, honesty, humor, and a contagious love for the Good News. Jeannie lives in Connecticut with her husband, Mike, and their four boys.