Be Still and Know
Finding quiet time with God in a noisy world
Do you hear that?”
I (Robert) asked my son that question on a recent trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina. When my son replied that he couldn’t hear anything, I told him that was the point.
After several busy months in ministry, this place provided what I most needed to hear: the refreshing sound of silence. We all need it at times.
It can be hard to quiet our souls in God’s presence while living in such a noisy world, but it is a needful discipline.
The Gospel of Mark records a time when Jesus encouraged His disciples to take a break from ministry:
Because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, [Jesus] said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place (6:31–32).
Sometimes we need to pull away from the noise. It is not just auditory commotion that distracts us and competes for our attention. Today’s noise is also visual, technological, and even psychological. Among other things, our smartphones and online habits disquiet our lives, minds, and ministries.
Meanwhile, anxiety and depression are on the rise. In such an environment, church leaders need something that is increasingly difficult to find: soul rest.
Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28–29).
The only way to remove the debilitating noise in our lives and minds is by deliberately entering the quiet of God’s presence. Jesus himself “often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:16). We need to do the same … and do it often.
Silence is among the most powerful therapeutic tools in counseling. A quiet pause is evocative, capturing attention and inviting reflection. During a counseling session, silence creates space a client can fill with needed — and sometimes transforming — insights and emotions.
There is evidence unplugging from technology and spending time in quiet reflection or prayer yields physical benefits as well, including lowering blood pressure, increasing focus, reducing stress, calming racing thoughts, improving sleep, and stimulating creativity.
For some, silence can be intimidating. Distractions keep us from confronting our inner selves — our fears, sins, histories, weaknesses, hurts, doubts, and regrets. Yet these are the very burdens the Lord wants to lift from our shoulders, in the stillness of lonely places.
When we shed the distractions, we can approach God attentively, with all our senses attuned to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Quieting our souls helps us hear God’s “gentle whisper” (1 Kings 19:12).
Coming quietly into God’s presence and experiencing the peace He offers requires some adjustments.
Internal strength grows only as we step away from the cacophony of the world around us,
lay down our burdens, and settle into God’s
King David wrote, “My heart is not proud, Lord, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content” (Psalm 131:1–2).
Every parent has heard the frantic wails of a hungry infant. As children mature, they move past that stage. Noisy demands gradually give way to a growing sense of trust, contentment, and assured love. Similarly, David had learned to calm his soul in confident awareness of God’s abiding presence.
It’s not enough to place “quiet time” with God on our schedules. We need to learn to quiet our souls in God’s presence, finding comfort in His goodness rather than just passing Him a list of demands like a runner in a relay race. We regularly need to slow down and rediscover in the present moment what Jesus meant when He said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you” (John 14:27).
Internal strength grows only as we step away from the cacophony of the world around us, lay down our burdens, and settle into God’s gentle embrace. When this becomes a consistent practice, it serves as a spiritual and emotional shock absorber through life’s challenges. Isaiah 30:15 says, “In quietness and trust is your strength.”
We need to become intentional about slowing down and reducing activity for a time. Quieting the soul involves a change of pace as we dial down our busyness and lean in to hear what God is saying. What does that look like in practical terms?
Start by finding a place of quiet solitude. It might be a special chair in your church office, a place in your home, or a spot outdoors. Be sure it is a location where you can detach from the noise. Turn off your phone and close your laptop. Put a sign on your door if necessary.
Breathe deeply, relaxing in God’s presence. Rest your heart and mind until you can say, like David, “I have calmed and quieted myself.” If a project, task, or unfinished job comes to mind, let the thought pass. Alternatively, jot it down to rid your mind of the noise.
This mental shift away from your projects and toward God’s presence is the “better” course Mary of Bethany chose. Jesus said to Mary’s busy sister, Martha, “You are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed — or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41–42).
Make time to sit quietly at the feet of Jesus (Luke 10:39). Soak in God’s presence. Ask the Holy Spirit to come into this space. Wait on God while reflecting on Him, His Word, and His character. Listen with expectation. This requires silencing your voice and growing more attentive to His.
Stillness may take effort at first. Your body may be at rest while your mind races on a bit. If some of the mental noises remain, don’t give up. Calm your concerns and surrender your cares. It often takes time.
Be aware of the attachment you naturally feel to noise, movement, and busyness, and begin to surrender that to God as an offering. Start small when it comes to the amount of time you quiet your soul. Linger in God’s presence, and celebrate every moment you do so.
The key is encountering God. Focus not on doing, but on simply being with God and spending time with Him. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” This is not about hearing some great word or insight, but on becoming more aware of who God is.
Expect the living God to be present with you in these moments of holy intimacy. Offer a word of thanksgiving to Him for this time in His presence.
Remember, your Heavenly Father has been looking forward to this time with you as well. He created you for this kind of fellowship. It is your true home — your refuge and place of rest.
This article appears in the Winter 2023 issue of Influence magazine.