The Need For Quiet
Have you tried to find a place that is quiet? Even in small towns and rural areas we hear an almost constant din of the sounds of man — trucks, cars, trains, and planes. The ubiquitous pocket radio is carrying the noise of modern life to every place accessible to man. Even libraries are noisy. As you consider the possible psychological and spiritual consequences of this constant noise, you are impressed with the need for quiet. Not only is our nation faced with water and air pollution, it is also plagued with noise pollution.
What do we mean by quiet? The dictionary gives several definitions including, "in a state of rest or calm, free from noise or disturbance; gentle, not excited." In the New Testament we have two related groups of words that are translated "quiet". One refers to tranquility from without, external quiet. We find this in Paul's encouraging prayers for rulers "that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity" (I Tim. 2:2). Christians are to pray for conditions that will promote quiet lives. There are important values in a life that does not have outside pressures constantly breaking against it. The government can, to some extent, provide for this, but it is getting increasingly difficult to find external quiet.
While man can promote or destroy quietness outside of us, we alone can promote or destroy the second kind of quietness to which the New Testament refers. This is inward tranquility. Peter refers to it as "meek and quiet spirit" (I Pet. 3:4). This is more important because we can possess this quietness even in the midst of external confusion. This quietness of spirit permits us to live above the confusion of the mass stampede for the noises that drown out the conscience and the finer thoughts of the soul.
Have you ever wondered why man is so noisy? Progress in mechanized equipment is partly responsible, but there is much noise and sound that is really not necessary. We could have more external quietness. I want to express a strong personal conviction about today's noisy life. I believe many people are afraid of silence. We keep up external sounds because we are lacking internal quietness. The first thing many do when they awake is turn on some device for making sound. As much as possible they keep some sort of cacophony around them most of their waking hours. I am convinced this is to avoid the soberness of thought. When things are quiet we are forced to think, to meditate and to look inward at ourselves. It is easier to be realistic when we are quiet though, but if we can lose ourselves in sounds, we may not have to face some real but unpleasant facts about ourselves. Too many are immersed in the follies and amusements of this life.
In the gospels we are impressed with the number of times Jesus withdrew to be alone. Often He retired to the mountains. From a study of some of these times we see the importance of being alone, free from disturbances; quiet both internally and externally. In some cases, we may have to gain the external in order to grasp the internal.
Jesus withdrew alone in the mountains to spend the night in prayer before he selected the apostles (Luke 6: 12). We should spend some time in quiet before we make any serious decisions in our life.
He withdrew when He knew the people wanted to make Him king (John 6:15). The kingdom of God was never, and is not now intended to be an earthly kingdom. Knowing their plans, Jesus withdrew. What better way to avoid the evil plans of others than to spend time in quiet?
Learning of the death of John, Jesus sought to be alone (Matt. 14:13). There is sorrow that cannot be fully assuaged by the presence of others. This withdrawal, however, was not a long one. Soon He was among the multitudes doing His work. When we feel the need for a quiet time to contemplate our sorrow, we should not sorrow long lest we despair. We need to be soon about our duties again.
All these examples are special times. We do not have great decisions to make every day. We do not have to avoid evil plans of others every day. We do not have the sorrow of death every day. Do we really need a daily quiet time? The next example from Jesus answers this question in the affirmative.
"And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when evening was come, he was there alone" (Mat. 14:23). Here is one very vital reason for a quiet time. While it may be possible to pray with noisy distractions, it is far easier to pray in quiet. Not only can our prayers be put forth uninterrupted, we can also search more deeply into the recesses of our heart. If we speak audibly or with groanings unutterable, we are made to feel our dependence upon God and our littleness in His sight. No person ought to be so deeply immersed in the affairs of this world that he is unable to retire from them now and again as Jesus did. Our life among men is important, but so was His and His was so short! If Jesus found it needful to engage in retired devotion, how much more must weak and imperfect creatures as we need it. If He used part of His short life to find a quiet time, so must we!
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