Silence has a powerful effect and it may be why it’s often used in movies rather than noise. Let’s consider a few movies, taken from the list at Listerverse, that use silence effectively.
The movie Contact, about making contact with aliens or them making contact with us, begins with 30 seconds of silence. Director Robert Zemeckis says the shot was initially suppose to be shot from silence to noise, but they wound up reversing the process.
“Producer Steve Starkey adds that the sequence “gives you a new perspective on planet Earth to look at it from this far out in the universe. You render yourself rather insignificant in relation to the whole.”
Like movies, silence helps you express yourself without uttering a single word.
No Country for Old Men
The movie’s sound editor, Skip Lievsay, explains that most suspense films rely on music. However, the Coen brothers wanted to “remove the safety net that lets the audience feel like they know what’s going to happen. I think it makes the movie much more suspenseful. You’re not guided by the score, and so you lose that comfort zone.”
A Quiet Place
The first ten minutes are in almost absolute silence, communicating that noise is not only dangerous but lethal.
Is about a blind man who is very adept at hearing thing and when criminals break in, they must be silent or suffer the consequence (and, spoiler alert, they do)
The problem with practicing silence
Silence brings tension
We don’t want God to be silent, it make us uneasy. Silence makes us fee like we’re unmoored reality, that we have lost our place in the world.
When I was younger, silence was anathema. I had to have my music blaring from my car, the tv always on and constantly searching for conversation or activity to keep the boredom away. Silence reminded me I was alone and alone was not a virtue for this 15 year old.
Today is not much different. My son (23) has the tv on while listening to music while reading a book while playing a game on his phone.
Heres’ the problem, constant noise/activity keeps you from actually listening to the voice of the Spirit.
Silence isn’t for everyone. Some people find silence annoying. The older I’ve gotten, the more I enjoy it because I’ve found a power in that silence.
Silence is awkward
We’ve all been in those conversations, especially with people we just meet, that start out really well and then trail off and everyone starts looking at their shoes before shambling off.
When it comes to in real life (IRL) relationships, the lack of social skills may be the cause of your silence, you’re just not wired for witty conversation.
When it comes to our relationship with God, awkward hits differently.
Why are we awkward with God?
we don’t know Him very well
we have to talk about our sin/failure
we have to admit we are wrong/repentance
we have to take the lesser position
Silence is Scary
We are so used to noise we, quickly, recognize when there isn’t any. My wife and I would often have this conversation when our kids were little,
My wife: Do you hear that?
Me: No, I don’t hear anything.
My wife: Exactly, the kids are up to something.
Consider the texts, messages, snap you’ve sent where you do not get an instant replay.
Consider the importance of the question you ask and the answer you want to hear. You become scared because you maybe don’t want to hear the answer.
It doesn’t matter whether you’ve asked someone on a date or applied to college, when you don’t hear anything, the bubbling of anxiety can turn into fear and “What if’s”
Silence can be disorienting
Silence builds tension. We love tension in movies but we don’t love tension in our relationships and especially not in our relationship with God.
In fact, I think many of us might believe that when God is “silent”, God is angry or disappointed with us; and that’s not true. No one wants to feel like they’re disappointing God.
Silence is revealing
Silence can bring out the existential dread in each of us. Silence reveals the cracks in our trust in God, but it can also reveal the adamant resolve you have in Christ.
Silence get’s us thinking about the really important questions of life,
- Who am I?
- What is my purpose?
- Is there a God?
- Where are we going to lunch after church?
You will discover more about yourself and others through silence than through talking.
I’ve taken many van rides with students and found out more about my student by just shutting up.
Scripture Deep Dive
“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” Psalm 46:10
Be still (verb)
- become helpless (useless)
- to sink
“In this setting, ‘be still and know that I am God’ is not advice to us to lead a contemplative life, however important that may be…. It means rather, ‘Lay down your arms. Surrender, and acknowledge that I am the one and only victorious God.’” (Boice)
The same Hebrew phrase for be still, is used to exhort Israel to find their comfort in God instead of in striving for approval.
For the LORD your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your ancestors, which he confirmed to them by oath. Duet. 4:31
Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid or terrified of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deut. 31:6
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:8
No one will be able to oppose you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not desert you nor abandon you. Joshua 1:5
God is used the phrase, “never leave you or forsake you” is used to comfort the Israelites. He is reassuring them they he will not abandon them. The same promise holds true to us today, Jesus told his followers,
In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. John 14:2,3
- to acknowledge
- to clearly understand
- to discern
We are only human and we can only know as much as God will reveal. Isaiah says,
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8,9
Surrender requires humility. To know God, as best as human can know God, is to come before Him in silent surrender. Bring no argument with you. Do not prepare a case before you enter the king’s court.
That I am God (Elohim)
- The Creator God
- He is the Power over powers
- The God of all gods, gods of heaven or/and gods of earth.
How does knowing that you are to talking to the Creator God effect your faith?
Take five minutes every day to be quiet, to be still, to be unarmed in the presence of God no matter how awkward, scary, disorienting or revealing that five minutes may be.
If you like devotions/studies like this one, check out my devotions around Psalm 119