By Guest Writer
My best days begin with nothing. I wake up, make a cup of coffee, then settle on the floor with a pillow and a journal. I resist checking email and set a timer on my phone for ten minutes. And then, with a few slow, deep breaths, I settle into silence.
Whether it’s accompanied by a quiet request to God tuned to the rhythm of breath, or soundtracked by a collision of wandering thoughts and internal monologues, those ten minutes of silence feel like a small island in a chaotic sea, maybe because they are. There’s no denying we live in a culture of noise. I relish quiet, but it’s rare to find a moment where I’m not reading something, or thinking about something, or scrolling on my phone, filling my head with something. The voices are loud and incessant, and they beg for attention every waking second. So maybe that’s why silence feels so countercultural, so sacred. Away from the noise, I can finally listen.
In one of my favorite passages from the Old Testament, the prophet Elijah experiences the gift of quiet. After a stunning display of God’s power before the prophets of Baal, Elijah is on the run. Scared, angry, and alone, he flees into the wilderness and screams toward the sky: “I have had enough! LORD, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers” (1Kings 19:4). But in the night, he doesn’t hear fearful judgment; angels come to him, encouraging him to eat and rest before the next journey.
For forty days, he walks, and I can’t help but wonder if those forty days felt like forty years. I wonder if he begged for signs, if his heart pounded at the memory of the altar bursting into flame, or if the shouts of violence haunted his dreams. But then one night, in a cave, at the end of the forty days, God speaks again.
“What are you doing here, Elijah?” (v.9).
Elijah lists his grievances. The Israelites have rejected their God, the king and queen are corrupt, the prophets have been killed and rejected, and the most heartbreaking complaint of all: “I alone am left” (1Kings 19:10). So, God beckons him outside for the show of his life: a cliff-shattering wind, a churning earthquake, a raging fire. But God doesn’t speak in any of them. Instead, “after the fire there was a voice, a soft whisper” (v.12). God doesn’t give Elijah more work to do or tell him to stop moaning. God meets him, repeating the gentle question, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (v.13).
We don’t lack reasons to grieve or work to do, but what may we hear when we “come away… and rest for a while” (Mark 6:31) and “wait expectantly for Him”? (Psalm 37:7). Like Elijah, we may look around and despair, feeling all alone. God invites us to practice silence, to turn down the noise so we can hear His soft whisper and turn toward Him.
Written by Jen Yokel