When we are called to times and seasons of silence what is their purpose – or indeed do they have any?
In a recent post I ended with the call of God, in circumstances such as those we face face today, to – “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46)
But since quoting this scripture I have been asking the question – to what end? The interesting thing is that it is precisely in times of trouble, uncertainty, confusion and distress that we cry out for action to resolve the situation. But instead God calls us to enter the place of stillness.
While contemplating this question my attention was drawn to a situation faced by a person who lived almost 300 years after Psalm 46 had been penned. The man himself is a bit of an enigma. Apart from the fact that he was a great poet and prophet nothing much else is known about him. We do not even know what his name meant.
What we do know is that the Habakkuk lived in a time of great upheaval, uncertainty, fear and terror. I strongly suspect that Habakkuk himself found solace in Psalm 46. For he would have seen there a parallel with his own circumstances. Habakkuk writes –
“I will wait quietly for the coming day when disaster will strike the people who invade us. Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! The Sovereign Lord is my strength! “
Habakkuk 3 16-19 (NLT)
But the strongest parallel between these two scriptures is as they end –
“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”
Psalm 46:10 & 11
The LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.
Both call for stillness – both call for silence in the face of overwhelming fear and coming disaster. But the question remains – to what end?
Perhaps there are a number of answers to that question when we stop to think about it. There are circumstances which are beyond our control. That is hard for many of us to take – but when we realise it we are confronted very clearly with the fact that God is God and we are not! At that point we either fight or rest. Again that is very hard for some of us – particular because we are not used to seasons of stillness – simply not used to resting. I have friends in “ministry” who find the circumstances forced on them at the moment intolerable – simply, I think if they were honest, because they know little or nothing of such seasons.
There may be other things also that can only be experience in the quiet place – but as I have thought about this I believe one stands above all the others. And it is this – an invitation to intimacy – a time to renew the heart in love. In the stillness God is in fact inviting us to his banqueting hall, to the feast of love. There are times when lovers simply rest in each other presence. No “to do” list, no planning for the next project, no arguments or discord – simply resting together in silence – that place where true love is experienced, perhaps renewed, enjoyed and soaked in.
I like theology, I have studied the Bible since my youth – but knowledge is a poor substitute for relationship, knowing about love a very poor second place to knowing the reality of love. And I believe only the quiet place will bring us back to love. To be honest I believe God is gifting us a beautiful opportunity at this moment in history. The opportunity to rise, in due course, from a place of intimacy as opposed to simply a place of knowledge. The world has seen enough of a loveless, selfish, hypocritical Christianity. Unless we rise in love from the tatters of this crisis I fear for the Church as we knew it. Indeed it may well cease to exist.
So embrace the silence, embrace the stillness – learn to love again.
“One who has found love feeds on Christ every day and at every hour and he becomes immortal thereby. For Jesus said: “Whoever eats this bread that I shall give him shall never see death” (cf.John 6.58). Blessed is he who eats the bread of love that is Jesus. For whoever feeds on love feeds on Christ … as John bears witness saying: “God is love” (1 John 4.8).”
Isaac of Nineveh