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Have you ever experienced true silence? A place where there are no background noises or distracting sounds? Think about it.

In early childhood, I was diagnosed with a significant hearing loss that probably occurred at birth or during infancy. It was remarkable that I developed healthy speech patterns, the pediatrician told my parents. As a child I was fitted with hearing aids, and the audiologist reported that I had already acquired the skill of lip reading — a skill that has proven beneficial through the years.

For me, normal sounds, speech and background noise compete for attention, and certain sounds are clearer than others. In a group situation or on the telephone, intense focus is my mode of operation. To listen well requires concentrated energy.

So when I remove my hearing aids for the evening, I’m immediately overwhelmed by the sudden quietness. I can relax. Refreshment comes when I begin to “hear” the messages of my heart after the competing, mind-cluttering sounds of the day.

In our high-tech, audiovisual-shaped world, have you noticed that many choose soul-deafening noise over silence, especially young people? Silence can be threatening. It amplifies the beat of our hearts.

Life at high volume describes our culture, even in our churches. “A loss of silence is as serious as a loss of memory and just as disorienting. Silence is, after all, the natural context from which we listen. Silence is also the natural context from which we speak. A culture that fills in our silences therefore disorients us, removing the frame, the background, the base of intelligibility for our listening and speaking,” writes Cornelius Plantinga Jr. 

He adds, “According to Genesis, God breaks the cosmic silence with a creative word, but he does this only during the days. At night and on the Sabbath, God falls silent. Correspondingly, there is for us, the creatures of God, a natural rhythm not only of work and rest, but also of sound and silence. ‘There is a time for everything,’ says Ecclesiastes, ‘a time to be silent and a time to speak.’”

It is in the silence that we hear the voice of God and communicate with him. Twice in the night the Lord called to the boy Samuel, and he responded with “Here I am!” and ran to the priest Eli. The third time the Lord called to Samuel, the boy again ran to the elderly priest Eli, who wisely explained to Samuel that it was the Lord speaking to him. He instructed the boy, “Go, lie down, and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant hears.’” And Samuel did as Eli said. That night the Lord stood before Samuel, communicated his Word and established him as a prophet of God (1 Samuel 3).

As God’s children, we need quiet discernment to listen for the sounds and silences of God. It is in the absorbing stillness that our hearts are readied to hear the Word of God and like Samuel, discern and hear the voice of God. Are you listening? Can you hear?

Lord, give us ears to hear and eyes to see all that we have in Christ Jesus. Quiet our hearts, speak to us through your Word and enable us to be ready to listen and obey. In Jesus name, Amen.

(Judy Hughes is a Development Representative at TWR, and the author of JudyBlog. For more about Judy, visit her staff page.)