Theology of Silence

My soul waits in silence for God only; From Him is my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be greatly shaken.

– Psalm 62:1-2, 5-6 (NAS)

I don’t know if I have ever heard of a theology of silence but I think David was on to something when he wrote this Psalm. Twice in this same text he repeats himself almost exactly between verse 1-2 and 5-6.

The word silence means “a quiet waiting”. It can also mean to repose which simply means “to lay at rest”. The implication here is that sometimes we talk too much. We are invited by God to bring our requests to Him. He is our heavenly Father who longs for us to trust Him with the struggles and anxieties of life. He delights to engage our life and begin responding to our needs so that He can work out all that is best for us. However, one of the things we have not learned well is to simply be silent before His majesty and the glory of His greatness.

We always have noise going off in our head, we are always listening to noise in some form or another. In fact the problem for many people is that we are so used to noise in all its forms and subtle movements that to be placed in any situation where there is true silence would drive most of us nuts. But it is often in the midst of the chaos of life that learning to be silent is very helpful. We talk better than we listen; we make demands rather than work for discovery; we cause conflict rather than grasping compassion. Our lives are hectic, busy and there are voices speaking into our head constantly.

I have tinnitus which I hardly notice most of the time except when there is complete silence. I most often notice it when I am crawling into bed and everything is pretty quiet. I can hear the ringing in my ears that sometimes seems pretty loud…when there is silence. Not sure it can be fixed but I have become so used to it that for the most part I don’t even notice it. The problem in our noisy life is that many of us don’t know what to do when there is nothing but silence. We are so used to the constant noise that we would go crazy if there was complete silence. We would be overwhelmed by the oppressive silence of nothing. I think the problem with silence is people feel like they are suddenly alone, detached and isolated from others and we don’t like that kind of isolation.

David understood that sometimes we need to stop talking and wait in silence. We often make demands on God to help us in our time of need; we expect Him to get things done; we want Him to take action. But sometimes we need to stop talking and simply wait in silence for Him… not for an answer but for Him. Sometimes in our silence it seems like God is silent too. But our greatest need is not always to have answers but we will always have a deep need for Him. He will certainly intervene and is very much at work in and around our life but David learns to wait for Him because He alone can be trusted; He alone is David’s salvation and stronghold. Silence before God alone is sometimes necessary because of the chaos inside our own heart and head. We are consumed by those things that would overwhelm our anxious thoughts. We want to fix things so we muse over the issues endlessly trying to find a solution. What is sometimes most needed is just to wait in silence for God alone.

You should give it a try. Turn off all the electronics, turn off the work, turn off the noise and wait in silence for God alone. You might get more clarity in being silent for a few minutes than in weeks of speculation in your own mind. Wait for Him and not just answers from Him. He is far more important than just the answers, because He, ultimately, is the answer!

Sometimes are greatest foundation and the stability of our life is not working harder or running faster through life’s demands, responsibilities or conflicts. Nor is it trying to talk God into more action. Sometimes the best thing to do is to rest quietly in Him and for Him. If we can allow His presence to soothe the anxiety of our heart and give us a peace we may have the secret to living a full and abundant life.

Brad Little