As I continue sharing with you some of the things that God has taught me over my recent sabbatical, let me share with you the importance of a quiet soul.
We live in a world that seems to be getting faster and noisier. With smartphones and tablets, any one of us could have a whole host of apps pinging and beeping at any time of the day or night: apps such as Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Google+, Snapchat, Tumblr, YouTube, Instagram, WhatsApp and that oh-so old fashioned thing called email. None of these things are wrong, but they do create noise in our world and, if we’re not careful, we can be so constantly surrounded by the noise that the quiet whisper of the Lord (1 Kings 19:12) gets drowned out.
Having a quiet soul is all about finding the place where, regardless of what is going on outside, your inner world is saturated by the peace and fulfillment that only God can give you. Here are three tests to help you identify how quiet your soul is:
- Turn off all electronic devices for a whole weekend: no checking Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. How do you feel? Agitated or restful?
- When you are sat at the bus stop or waiting for a meeting, what do you do? Do you use that time for prayer, meditation or quiet thoughtfulness, or do you reach for your phone and start filling the quiet with information noise?
- When you put your head on the pillow at night and think about the day, or even the day to come, what is the underlying disposition of your heart? Peaceful or fretful?
The quiet soul is ‘more a state of mind and heart than it is a place. There is a solitude [or quietness] of the heart that can be maintained at all times. Crowds, or lack of them, have little to do with this inward attentiveness.’ (Richard Foster).
Jesus modelled a life that placed maintaining a quiet soul at the heart of everything he did. Again and again, we see him retreating to places of solitude, not to escape but to refresh and rejuvenate his inner world with times of extended conversation and intimacy with his Father (see Matthew 4:1-11, Luke 6:12, Matthew 14:13, Matthew 14:23, Mark 1:35, Mark 6:31, Luke 5:16, Matthew 17:1-9, Matthew 26:36-46).
The quiet soul is the place whereby the noise of this world has been dialed down so that ‘the divine whisper’ (Richard Foster) can be heard more clearly.
Over the course of my sabbatical this has been one of the greatest journeys that God has taken me on. Yes, there have been quite a number of outward changes that I have made (getting rid of my smartphone, unplugging from lots of distracting things, not automatically turning on the radio when I get in the car), but it has also been about consciously and deliberately creating space in my world and heart to learn better how to hear the voice of God. And guess what? This takes time, which in a busy and noisy world you must fight for!
So what about you? How quiet is your soul? Are there any external changes you need to make to create space for solitude? More importantly, are there any inner changes that need to take place so that solitude can turn into sweet communion with your heavenly Father?