Kevin Reilly – Gdansk, Poland
Physical silence and stillness in our world are rare whilst the prolonged and heavy silence from within which a soul is able to be restored, is even rarer; yet for David, it was in such a place that God’s salvation was to be found. At a time when many are considering how to improve life for the coming year, perhaps a better starting point is not What can I start? but How can I stop?
For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken. (Ps 62:1-2)
There is a sense in this verse that David is choosing to still himself – that the weight of his present inactivity and stillness is bearing so heavily upon him that he is forced to surrender to silence. His posture is deliberate and intentional – For God alone my soul waits. This is not a random moment of encounter – though such moments are both valid and wonderful – here, David is intentional in his stillness. And this is not a moment of personal reflection either, David is clear as to why he is stopping and what he is hoping for. He waits for God, confident in the steadiness of His character and the completeness of His enveloping strength.
My soul waits for God – my rock, my salvation, my fortress.
However, this silent meditation upon the Lord is not conducted in a religious vacuum, but in a context of conflict – where David’s enemies attack and batter him and make plans to unseat him with lies and falsehoods; where David is blessed to his face but cursed to his back (v3-4); yet he refuses to be shaped by fear, anger and anxiety and instead, chooses to wait: For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him (v1, v5).
We joke in our family that in the new heavens and the new earth, God will leave some of his creation under construction in order that I have something to do – some DIY, something. Anything. I am by nature a doer. I think about stuff. I plan stuff. I do stuff. I encounter problems and I aim to find solutions and improve situations. It is in my nature to be this way. Inactivity and stillness are not natural to me.
David is clearly capable of responding physically to his enemies. He is King after all! He is able (and qualified) to subdue his enemies and has done so on many occasions. But here he doesn’t. He waits in silence before the Lord for a salvation that is beyond his best efforts.
And this is where we might learn something: How many of our salvations might simply be our best efforts, as opposed to God’s will and purpose?
To act decisively and bring change is so highly prized in our Western culture. We value it because we value ideas of independence and self-improvement. David, could act. But he doesn’t. He waits. He chooses to disappear and (perhaps) to disappoint in order to find a salvation that is greater than the sum total of his considerable parts. There is depth to the man – he knows some things about God, but he knows some things about people too: Those of low estate are but a breath; those of high estate are a delusion; in the balances they go up; they are together lighter than a breath (v9); and so he has learned to settle his life upon a simple truth: Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God, and that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love. (v11-12)
Power and steadfast love belongs to God. This is David’s governing and defining truth, compelling him to wait in silence, for the Lord. There is a place, of course for pouring our hearts out to God – David references this here too (v8) – but his choice to wait in silence seems to me to express most purely what he truly believes. When his heart has been emptied and his words have run out, he is left with something pure and profound – Power and steadfast love belong to you or (in new covenant language) Jesus is Lord!
I still like to do things and get stuff done, but I am also learning the art of waiting. I am doing less and am choosing not to be driven by the urgent agendas of others. I am learning how to prayer walk and yet (a bit weird this) not actually pray…cultivating instead a posture of walking and waiting and being silent before the Lord. I have learned to focus my body physically into a posture of stillness – in icy water, in long runs, in Krav Maga training – where my fulfilling, physical acts offer rich, emotional benefits. I am learning to read the Bible slowly and more meditatively – been chewing through the book of Acts since September last year – and I am trying to wait for God and to listen for him with greater intentionality.
For those of us with a strong appetite to do stuff – and let’s be clear, ours is a faith that is to be expressed through an obedient life – it is also possible to cultivate stillness. To become less responsible (but not irresponsible) with regard to solutions and salvations and instead to cultivate the lost art of waiting in silence.
2023 – Well he didn’t seem to do too much this past year and we didn’t hear much from him either!
I’ve no doubt that some would be disappointed with David’s choice to wait and to be still – this will be true for us too; but if we are seeking the Lord’s salvation, we won’t find it in the praise of others, or within the totality of our own gifts and authority, we’ll find it as we wait for him in stillness and in silence because…
Once God has spoken;
twice have I heard this:
that power belongs to God,
and that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love.
Wow, thanks Kevin, this is beautifully written, powerful words that have restored my soul and challenged me. When you mention your prayer walking and the quietness and stillness, that’s something I’ve been pondering for a while too. That quietness bringing a connection of the soul to God, something I’ve been dipping my toe into but not able to put into words. This has blessed me massively today, thank you, love to you all!
Hi Rachel, thanks for taking the time to write this mate. For sure I am very much “in process” with learning how to wait and listen – not historically great strengths for me. But in my usual morning prayer walk along the river, I now have a section where I just walk and listen – but don’t pray (so hard;). But I feel like there are some benefits for me in this and I am really encouraged that I am not alone in my thinking on this. Blessings friend…
This is so helpful – simple, yet profound; obvious, yet greatly neglected. It has helped crystallise some thoughts as I prepare to speak at a conference in a few days. Thanks Kevin
Hi Gareth, thanks for the encouragement – it’s much appreciated 🙂 Be blessed as you speak at your conference mate!