Silence and Solitude

by Hilary Horn

As we continue our new theme, What Does My Soul Long to Do? here is wonderful post on Silence and Solitude by Jean Andrianoff

For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. Psalm 2:1 (ESV)

In pondering the things my soul longs for, two things came to mind: silence and solitude. It’s not that I don’t enjoy people, but as an introvert, after spending a lot of time with people, I need to recharge with some time alone. It’s in the times of quiet solitude that I can best hear God. 

Recently, my husband and I have been visiting retirement communities with a view to where we would feel comfortable living once we’re less able to keep up a place on our own. The representatives of these communities are always anxious to tell us about the many activities their community offers. Apparently, many people fear inactivity and boredom. My question, on the other hand, is not “What can you offer to keep me busy?” but “What are the opportunities and places for quiet reflection?

Granted, some of this reflects on my personality. I need times of solitude in order to gain strength to enjoy times with others. If my calendar is too full to find extended time on my own, I feel exhausted and find my time with God feels rushed and empty. I get hungry for solitude, almost a physical craving. As the Psalmist said, 

“As a deer pants for flowing streams, 

so pants my soul for you, O God. 

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. 

When can I go and meet with God?” (Psalm 42:1-2; NIV)

The need for quiet space with God is not restricted to introverts, but something that everyone needs. Jesus set the prime example for this, as he often retreated to a solitary place to pray. Group prayer is important but is not a substitute for time alone with God. If Jesus, who was one with God, required this kind of sustenance, how much more do I?

Even the secular world is recognizing the need for silence and reflection. Silent retreats, where people spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to escape the bombardment of noise in our crowded and busy world, are becoming more popular.

Lest you see me as a persnickety old recluse, you should know that I can experience too much solitude. If I’m not blessed with time with family and friends, I begin to crave that. Community is just as vital to my spiritual health as solitude. Balance is important. Perhaps introverts require more time alone; extroverts, more time in community. But no matter what your personality, you need time for both.

I am blessed now with living in a quiet rural neighborhood. We can see only one other house—if we go out into our back yard. In our large house it’s easy to find a space to be alone. And now that our children are grown and on their own, there is much less chance of being interrupted during quiet time. Not everyone is that fortunate. When our daughters were little, it seemed like no matter how early I got up in order to have quiet time, they would get up earlier—as if there were some kind of radar that sent them “Mommy is awake!” alerts.

Susanna Wesley famously threw her apron over her head when she wanted to be “alone” with God. Her ten children and the domestic helpers knew this was a signal that Susanna was in her “tent of meeting” with God and should not be disturbed. This is often cited as testimony that if Susanna, with her ten children, could do it, the rest of us are without excuse. I don’t believe it’s that simple, but it does challenge us to find creative ways of being alone with God. Susanna’s need for that was so great that she created a space of solitude (but surely not silence!) in the midst of her demanding life. Sometimes creating a particular place for time with God can be beneficial, even if it’s not the ideal quiet, solitary place. 

A soul’s thirst for silence and solitude is God-ordained. It’s easy to allow our lives to become so full of the busyness and noise of daily life that we have no space left for God. But in the silence, we can hear His voice and satisfy our soul’s thirst in His presence.

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