(Pastor Cameron Beyenberg)
“God never hurries. There are no deadlines against which He must work. Only to know this is to quiet our spirits and relax our nerve.” – A.W. Tozer
John Ortberg, a pastor and theologian, was talking with Dallas Willard, another pastor and theologian, when he asked Dallas how he could become more spiritually healthy. Dallas paused for a while, and responded with, “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.” Ortberg wrote this down, commented that it was a good quotation for life, and asked for more advice. Dallas, again in slow confidence responded with, “There is nothing else. You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”
Everyday there are billions of people hustling and bustling around the world to finish their work, to see the next person, to consume the next product, to experience the next big thing, etc. We live in a world and a society filled with the loud expectation that we must hurry, we must strive, we must earn, we must do, and that we must live according to other’s dreams and goals. There are an estimated 7.4 billion humans hurrying around this small world, and whether it is traffic, long lines, or rushing ahead, each person is attempting to find worth, value, and identity in the things they possess, the work they are accomplishing, the money they are making, or the people that surround them.
But, have we ever just stopped. Have we ever been able to push the stop button on our lives and look around? Are we even aware that the pace of life that we are currently living at is unsustainable, unhealthy, and is leading to an incomplete vision of life? Are we even conscious of the pain inside our hearts, the beauty of the person begging for food, the creativity of the small details, or the intentionality of the structures around us? We are surrounded by the marks of God, but are we stopping to see and listen?
One of my favorite past activities was watching the sunset over the ocean at my college, Point Loma Nazarene University. Our campus was right on the cliffs of the San Diego peninsula beaches, and the sun would set over the ocean creating unbelievable colors in the sky while the wind would warmly and gently breeze across my skin. Often, I would find myself silent. I was in complete awe at the beauty in front of me. I was in wonder of the Artist who created color, who painted out the skies, and who was present in the wind blowing across my body. A sunset still causes me to stop. No matter what is going on, no matter how much there is to do, no matter what the day or night ahead looks like, beauty makes me stop.
The reality at hand is that we live in a world in which there is such a fast-paced lifestyle that we miss the Beauty all around us that is calling us to stop everyday. We think we have found true beauty in work, when the truest of all Beauty is found in working from rest. We believe we have stumbled upon glory when we make enough money or have a big enough house, when the greatest of all glory is found in the Provider who makes His home in us. We assume that if we numb pain long enough by running from it through any means necessary that all will be okay, when the greatest Healer is more present than the next word in this sentence.
The Sabbath is given to humanity to remind us that we were not created to live without stopping. Resting reminds us of the Beauty that is around us and within us. Stopping allows us to remember that we are limited creatures who are dependent upon the Creator who is good, perfect, and will always be working. Halting gives us perspective of what is behind us, what is in front of us, and Who is with us right now. The difficulty with Sabbath is not in practicing it, but in getting rid of all the things we think we need in order to actually stop for one day. Sabbath was not created to be hard, it was given to us as a gift so that we would delight, refresh, live and work from this place of rest.
With that said, one of the greatest ways that we can implement Sabbath into our lives and daily moments is through the practice of silence. We live in a world of words, of movies, of social media, of instant access to news, and of convenience. The practice of Sabbath and silence gives us a tool to remind ourselves that we must live from the Word; that we must spend time silently before the One who created the imagination; that we must find our worth not in how many people like our photos, but in the approval and acceptance of the Creator who calls us His masterpiece (Eph. 2:10); and that the true life, the life without hurry, is found when we stop enough to silently listen to the pace of the One who is leading the way.
In 1 Kings 19, there is a story of the prophet Elijah who fled for his life in fear from attacks by Jezebel and Ahab. As Elijah was in the caves of Mount Horeb, he saw an amazing sight. He was instructed by the Word of the Lord to go stand out on the mountain for the Lord was going to pass by. At once, a great wind came across the mountain, but the Lord was not in the wind. Then, a powerful earthquake shook the ground, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake, a scorching fire passed on the mountain, but the Lord was not in the fire. Finally, Elijah heard the Lord pass by in a small, gentle, still voice.
The literal translation of this word means soft, gentle whisper, or a very close second translation would in the sound of silence. Much like life, we expect God to be the loud, boisterous noise we hear in powerful winds, earth shaking quakes, or vehement flames, but in this story and in our lives, the voice of God can also be found in the sound of silence. Elijah is comforted by the Word of the Lord that comes to him, calming his fears, speaking life and confidence back into the prophet who had ran from his calling. How about you? Are you running from the voice of God or running toward the voice of God? Are you listening only in the big things or are you opening yourself to hear God in the sound of silence?
The question is not about whether or not God is still speaking, but it’s rather about those who are quiet enough to listen. are we rushing past the voice of God found in the beauty all around, or are we stopping to take in the slow and wonderful depths of His love present in the fast-paced world?
This week we want to encourage you and challenge you to daily moments of silence. It doesn’t have to be a full day of silence, but it can be. It doesn’t have to be hours, but it can be. Our goal is not to compete in who is practicing more silence than who, but coming to stop in silence so that we may actually re-center our hearts in connection of the Lord. This can be fifteen minutes or fifteen seconds—although we definitely suggest stopping for longer than fifteen seconds!
Again, the world around us is moving too quickly. We are rushing along, missing God before us, and then complaining that God never speaks to us. We are hurrying past special moments, beautiful encounters, and gifts of life that were meant to be experienced slowly. The Sabbath is a gift and a practice that will help you to be present and practice silence as a way to connect your heart with the King’s heart. Give it a shot this week. Stop and be silent before the Lord. Maybe you’ll find that His pace will bring you peace that surpasses that which you can understand (Phil. 4:8). Maybe, just maybe, you’ll find that He’s already been speaking, already been working, already is present, and all we needed to do was be present, be still, and be with Him. Here’s to a week of experiencing the beauty of the Lord through silent wonder and prayerful connection every day. Amen.