“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven . . .
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak”
Ecclesiastes 3:7 (ESV)
Sunday sermons often press us to “Speak up!” and “Share your faith!” That’s right, we do need to speak up and share the faith, often with well prepared questions, practiced answers, long conversations, and a lifetime of communicating Christian truth. There is a time for that. But there is also a time to “keep silent.” Rough and clumsy words are sharpened to precise wisdom in the patient workshop of silence. That means listening, meditating, and praying, within a posture of receptivity towards God. Wise living is a powerfully persuasive apologetic yet it’s remarkably understated. We live in a noisy world of carhorns, tattling tabloids, advertising jingles, and profane music blaring at us from every direction. We must take care to section off some silence and solitude for ourselves. Apart from that regular quarantine we risk catching the modern malady of noise-addiction. Noisy living is is a tempting contagion. Amidst the noise we aren’t haunted the whispers of our unresolved past. Amidst the noise we can drown out the cries of our conscience. Amidst the noise we find a fast-paced incessant entertainment promising ever more delights while spoiling our appetite for God. But our apologetic is best crafted, in heavy measure, within the invested character found in regular solitude and silence. Our intellectual answers, guided by the Holy Spirit, rarely come together till we stop moving and listen long enough to hear God’s direction.
There is deep faith found in silence; we have to trust that the battle is God’s to win, the work is the Lord’s, and the real power in all of these struggles is really His. We desperately want to do something, say something, and make it all work with our words and actions. But in reality, we are just enjoying the privilege of participating in what He’s already doing. In silence we are ready to listen to Him in prayer and meditation, ready to hear His instructions in Scripture, and ready to let Him lead us. In silence we are not earning an apologetic victory with the weight of our words, or advancing the kingdom with our clever concepts. We engage in a verbal fast where God is training us to follow orders and align with His (already achieved) victory. Among the spiritual disciplines, silence is counterintuitive. God loves to use this tactical patience to remind us that this is His war, fought on His terms. Thoughtful people don’t run from silence, they embrace it. Gifted apologists cherish the silence where the distractions are dropped and God’s wisdom resonates loud and clear. The world is blurry when we’re in a hurry. So slow down. Be quiet. Listen.