While trying to come up with something to write about, I realized that I was coming up with…nothing… However, I have decided that this would be a good topic to write about, namely…nothing…
There is a certain amount of nothingness that makes up part of a healthy spiritual life. If we were to look at this nothingness through the lens of spiritual disciplines, we would call it solitude and silence. So what can nothingness do to benefit us spiritually? After all, isn’t it the case that if we aren’t growing then we’re shriveling? That statement is certainly true. What would be false is to think engaging in nothingness means we aren’t growing. It would be more accurate to call the nothingness in question “being”. Taking time for solitude and silence puts us in a state of simply being. The benefit of taking time to be is that it gives us a chance to look around and listen to God.
Consider this: when we are constantly on the move from Bible study to food pantry to Sunday morning service, etc., do we stop to look and listen to God? These are all good things to do, but we must be careful not to lose sight of God behind our day planners. Doing these things is good because they give us the chance to spend time with God. But if we’re already thinking about the next thing on our to-do list, are we really spending that time with God? Consider the story of Jesus’ visit to the home of Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38-42). While they were both godly women, Martha got wrapped up in doing things and didn’t take time to listen to Jesus.
Solitude and silence gives us the chance to get a spiritual realignment from God; to get our priorities straight. When we spend time alone we get to see ourselves without the fog from society and media that often obscure our view. Of course, this is often an uncomfortable view because we are able to see and feel the things that we use the fog to cover up and ignore. However, in taking this hard look, we are able to bring to God those things we would rather sweep under the rug. This allows God to teach us about ourselves and to help us in the ways He really loves to.
If you haven’t tried spending a day silence before, give it a try as an experiment. It doesn’t have to be a grim affair, just don’t speak unless spoken to (it is helpful to pick a day for this that doesn’t require much verbal interaction on your part). You may be amazed at the things that you didn’t notice before such as sights, sounds, and smells. You may be surprised by the sense of freedom that comes from not constantly thinking about what to say next. You may be shocked at how many places you find God if you are attentive. God isn’t always Revelation-lightning-from-the-sky in your face. Elijah encountered God as a “still, small voice” (1 Kings 19:11-13).
The common thread here is that we give God free-reign during that time. Often, our interaction with God consists of telling Him what to do or doing things for Him (yes that includes studying the Bible) without actually listening to Him. Sometimes God doesn’t say anything and just wants us to spend time in His presence. The Psalmist often speaks about being still and meditating on God, His law, and His works. In Psalm 119:15 he writes, “I will meditate on Your precepts, and contemplate Your ways.” Psalm 143:5 states, “I remember the days of old; I meditate on all Your works; I muse on the work of Your hands.”
We are certainly called to be doers of the Word, to let our faith express itself as works. However, sometimes our doing consists of just being and following God means that we are still, and wait on God.