For this issue focused on “Peace: Be Still,” I’m reminded of a couple of reflections from well-known Christians over the past few centuries.
The first comes from Blaise Pascal, who lived in the 1600s in France. “All of humanity’s problems,” Pascal wrote, “stem from our inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”
The other comes from my old favorite C.S. Lewis, who in 1945 told a group of students at Oxford that “We live in a world starved for solitude, silence, and privacy, and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship.” One among many of the causes for this, he said, was the increasingly popular technology of “the wireless.”
Can you imagine either Pascal or Lewis being dropped into our world, and the shock and despair they would feel at the explosion of ways we have created to distract ourselves in the early 21st century? It’s not just the “wireless” anymore—or whatever was distracting people in mid-17th century France—but TV and internet and mobile phones with alerts designed to interrupt us and distract us so we pay attention to a constant stream of “urgent” news or texts or social media updates.
In our world today, it is almost impossible to avoid this cacophony of noise in our daily lives, which is why trips to the mountains or the woods—where we are forced to be “off the grid”—can be so refreshing and bracing and healing.
“Be still and know that I AM,” God reminds us in Psalm 46. In this Psalm, we are encouraged to “Be Still,” but also reassured that God will be our refuge, our strength and our help in times of trouble.
Given the nonstop noise that surrounds us in our world today, I wonder if we might acknowledge in our prayer life that one of our “troubles” today is this unceasing and unrelenting noise. It is troublesome for any number of reasons, but maybe most importantly, it is troublesome because it so easily and so comprehensively drowns out the voice of God.
Remember, the God we worship isn’t prone to shouting. Instead, as a well-known hymn reminds us, our God comes to us “as one unknown, a breath unseen, unheard,” making himself present to us “when souls in silence lie.” Or, as Elijah experienced, God reveals himself in “a still small voice,” or “a whisper,” or “the sound of sheer silence.”
This season, may we find ways to still ourselves long enough to experience this silence—and to once again hear this voice that calls us home.