Silence can be pretty elusive in our modern world and yet it is vital for our souls to survive and thrive in this world. St. John of the Cross (16th century) wrote that “Silence is God’s first language.” Why would silence be God’s native tongue? Because silence is the language of intimacy. Those who are close can sit and just “be” together. Those who are intimate can just “know” what the other person is thinking and feeling without words. God has existed for all eternity in relationship with Himself (Father, Son, and Spirit) and He desires to share that love with His creation. He desires to just “be” with us in silence because it is intimate and communicates a love that is simply present.
Psalm 62:5 is a challenge to our souls: “For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.” Our sense of hope is nurtured in silence. Isaiah 30:15 encourages that: “in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” Our strength is developed as we are quiet. In our world of words and noise, our souls can become depleted by the constant need to perform and respond and react. Silence refreshes us in God’s love, reminding us that He is the ground of our being.
Teresa of Calcutta said the following about cultivating a true sense of silence that goes beyond outer silence to a true inner silence:
To make possible true inner silence, practice:
Silence of the eyes, by seeking always the beauty and goodness of God everywhere, and closing them to the faults of others and to all that is sinful and disturbing to the soul.
Silence of the ears, by listening always to the voice of God and to the cry of the poor and the needy, and closing them to all other voices that come from fallen human nature, such as gossip, tale bearing, and uncharitable words.
Silence of the tongue, by praising God and speaking the life-giving Word of God that is the truth, that enlightens and inspires, brings peace, hope, and joy; and by refraining from self-defense and every word that causes darkness, turmoil, pain, and death.
Silence of the mind, by opening it to the truth and knowledge of God in prayer and contemplation, like Mary who pondered the marvels of the Lord in her heart, and by closing it to all untruths, distractions, destructive thoughts, rash judgments, false suspicions of others, vengeful thoughts, and desires.
Silence of the heart, by loving God with our heart, soul, mind, and strength; loving one another as God loves; and avoiding all selfishness, hatred, envy, jealousy, and greed.
How will you cultivate silence in your life today? Take a moment and be silent before Him … sit and be still in your soul, releasing any thoughts that surface to His care. Ask Him which of these “silences” you might practice today. Sit and listen. Then, trustingly move forward with your day.
Cultivating silence that rests in God’s love doesn’t come easily or quickly. Silence is a discipline that develops and grows over time. Take 10-20 minutes each day to simply be quiet before Him … intending to rest in Him and listen to His quiet impressions upon your heart. Don’t worry about distracting thoughts … simply use each one as an opportunity to trust Him as you let go of worrying or obsessing or controlling that thought/idea.