The Importance of Silence and Solitude

My friends and I are going through a book about spiritual disciplines. The latest chapter we read was about silence and solitude. The idea that silence and solitude could be spiritual disciplines seemed strange to me, but the more we read and discussed the more it made sense. Our days are filled with noise. In fact, it is hard to go someplace that is truly quiet. 

Especially, I think, in recent years; technology keeps getting bigger and better. Perhaps in the days before we had all these smartphones, Bluetooth, streaming music apps, Netflix, and other video players, the world might have had some silence—a peaceful time when you were alone and could sit out on the porch and listen to the chirping of the crickets and frogs, or a time to walk through a field of flowers or produce and enjoy the silence and the beauty of God’s creation as the sun sinks and the sky bursts with amazing colors. 

It would seem those days were easier to find time for silence and solitude. Now, people, including myself can sometimes find it uncomfortable to sit in silence. How often do we pick up our phones and play music to pass the time while we’re getting ready? Even though it might be harder nowadays and possibly uncomfortable to be by yourself and in silence, it is still really important for a Christian to find that time. 

Even when I do find myself in silence and not bothered by it, I never think to use it as a time to grow closer in my relationship with the Father. Silence and solitude can and should be used as a time to read the Word, concentrate on prayer, listen for God, enjoy His handiwork, and more. It could be used as a time to try and see where God wants you in your life and in any decisions you need to make, or it could be used to take time to rest in God and His promises. Basically, it should be used to strengthen your relationship with God and for you to listen for God, for the Holy Spirit, to lead you and strengthen you. 

Learning to take opportunities of silence as well as make times of silence and solitude will be a hard habit to get into, especially in the always-connected and noisy world we live in, but it is a very important discipline to get into and use in our Christian lives. 

Brittany Bylsma

His Mercy is More

Have you ever wished that there was a rewind button, that you could go back to the hour before and redo your reaction to something? To do something better or take out the part where you yelled or were upset? Maybe there was a time when the weight of your sin was so heavy and the only thing you longed for was for it to go away.

Unfortunately, we don’t have a time machine or a guilt eraser for a quick and easy fix to this inherent problem of sin that we all face. Instead, we have something that works even better, and it comes at no cost for us. What is this non-magical, yet life altering fix? The mercy of our Heavenly Father.

God’s mercy is an incredible blessing. It has incredible power: removing the sin of an entire nation in a day (Zechariah 3:9), taking our sins and hurling them as far as east from west (Psalm 103:12), throwing them into the depths of a fathomless sea (Micah 7:18-19). This power of God’s mercy comes down to us and wipes away our sins from our record, throwing them into a sea “without bottom or shore,” the depths of which are known and fathomed only by the Almighty Creator, Himself.

Our sins are remembered no more. That is a promise. But that doesn’t mean that God doesn’t see them in the first place, that he turns a blind eye to them. That’s not how God’s mercy works. This mercy comes at no price to us, but that doesn’t mean that there was not a great cost; we no longer feel the weight of our sin, but that does not mean this incomprehensible load would just cease to exist.“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed”

God’s mercy is granted because of the work that Christ did for us. “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4-5).

To me, this is one of the most powerful statements in the entirety of scripture. The chastisement on him and his wounds are what brought us peace, what healed our weaknesses! He bore that heavy load so that we might be freed from it. He took the beatings and the scorn and the weight of God’s wrath, so that we might be spared!

“His Mercy is More” is a song that so accurately depicts the depth of God’s mercy. The lyrics include: ”What riches of kindness He lavished on us. His blood was the payment, His life was the cost. We stood ‘neath a debt we could never afford. Our sins, they are many, His mercy is more.” We were under the weight of sin that we could never overcome, and so God, in His mercy, removed the debt and gave it to another who could bear it.

God’s mercy, His kindness, is also patient. He deals tenderly with us in our infirmities. Those he forgives are not the ones that have it all figured out, who would have no need for a Savior. He didn’t come to heal the righteous, but to bring sinners to repentance (Matthew 9:12-13). What a comfort! “He welcomes the weakest, the vilest, the poor.” That’s you. That’s me. And no matter the sin, His mercy can cover it, and indeed already has. Our sins may be great. They may be overwhelming for us, but with God, nothing is impossible, even forgiving the worst of sins (Matt. 19:26).

To me, the greatest comfort is found in the reason for God’s mercy. He had no obligation to draw us out of our sins. He had no need for us to be saved, and yet, that is exactly what he did. Why would he do that? The answer is in the very first line of this song. “What love could remember no wrongs he hath done…” God’s love. It’s the only reason we are given this mercy. 

This forgiveness came at the cost of Christ’s life. His sacrifice is the proof that our God has mercy on us. His blood was the payment that washed away our sin. God gave up His son to save us. What a love!

These mercies are given to us, not of our own merit, but of God’s abundant grace. They are new every morning. They will never run out or become weak. What a faithful, amazing, loving God we serve.

“Praise the Lord! His mercy is more. Stronger than darkness, new every morning, our sins, they are many, His mercy is more.”

“His mercy is more” by Keith Getty

Mikaia Looyenga 

Psalm 42 (1): When?

In Psalm 42, three questions are asked. The first of these is “when?” This question can arise from very different hearts. There is the “when” of murmuring and complaining. It arises out of a heart of unbelief. But there is also an entirely appropriate “when.” It is the “when” of ardent hope and godly desire. We will talk of both in connection with Psalm 42.

“My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?”

Psalm 42:2

The psalmist cries in verse 2, “When shall I come and appear before God?”

The psalmist uses the figure of the panting hart to more fully describe his need. In the hart, we too can find an example of our own lives. The hart must live its life on high alert, ever watchful for the predator. It is weak, without fang or claw, and utterly unable to fight its own battles. Therefore, its life is one of flight, of running from the lion who seeks to devour it.

And so the hart needs water to sustain its life. It needs cool, refreshing water to give it strength to continue to run, day after day. Apart from that water, there is no life. If it cannot quench its thirst by finding a brook, it will be an easy meal for the hungry lion. Like nothing else, water is absolutely necessary for the deer to live.

Water is the most basic necessity for human life. Thirst is one of the most potent desires built into our nature, and there are few more naturally satisfying experiences than to drink refreshing water after a long period of work or exercise in the hot sun. It is also worth noting that dying of thirst is one of the worst ways to die. We need water.

The psalmist likens this thirst for water unto his own desire to see God. Just as the hart pants for the life-giving waters, so does the psalmist thirst after God. It is in our own renewed natures as Christians to also have this thirst for God. All our lives we are hunted by Satan, that roaring lion, who seeks to devour us. All our lives we must flee him and his servants as they seek to destroy us and the spiritual life that is in us. He is far beyond our power to defeat. We desperately look to God, knowing that on our own we are easy prey. We understand that only in the living God can we find life for ourselves.

Do we really have this desire? Imagine for a moment that the hart, rather than seeking out the refreshing water brooks, runs directly toward the lion and into its waiting jaws. This would surely be a strange sight, and even a perversion of nature. It is unheard of in the natural world for the prey to run to the predator.

Yet is this not what man does in his folly? Ungodly man seeks out his own destruction, running eagerly to the waiting lion, every one to be devoured by Satan. The wages of sin is death, and everyone that shuns God in favor of a life of sin is responsible for seeking out his own destruction. How often are we in the midst of the world, running after the same pleasure? Is our thirst for the next beer, or the next Netflix episode, or perhaps our next vacation? If we honestly examine ourselves, we can each find the idol to which we run, neglecting the refreshing water that is ours in Christ. Are you asking when your next drink is?

When God shows us the folly of our sin and causes us to thirst after Himself, the question still stands. When?

“Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts: all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me.”

Psalm 42:7

The psalmist expresses his continued anguish poetically in verse 7, and it rings true for us because in our weakness we often do doubt. The weight of our sins, and the attacks of our enemies may cause us to doubt that we will make it into the presence of God ever again. Perhaps you have had the opportunity to confront the massive waves of the ocean in all their power. If so, you likely understand that if caught unawares, these waves can cause you to tumble, head-over-heels, completely helpless, down onto the ocean floor. They can crush your head mercilessly into the rough sand below and leave you gasping for breath. Perhaps you’ve never been to the ocean. And if you have, maybe you made sure to avoid the larger waves. But have you experienced the waves and the billows of life, which cause you to tumble breathlessly head-over-heels until you seem to hit new lows? There are no Christians who do not know from experience that this life involves much suffering. And these trials can tempt us to say, not with a proper zeal, but with a doubting heart, “When?”

Perhaps this word has a new meaning for you now. We desired to appear before God in His house like never before, because never before were we barred from that privilege for so long. We thirsted after the public corporate worship in which we are used to partaking every Lord’s Day. We missed worshipping with all our brothers and sisters in Christ. We missed the praying, the singing, and the sermons. We long for the Lord’s Day because it is then that we appear before God and behold Him. Jesus Christ, as the revelation of God, is presented to us in the preaching. It is then that we respond, as the psalmist in verse 4, with the “voice of joy and praise, with the multitude that kept holyday.” But so long were we left to “remember these things,” and to “pour out” our souls.

“When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me: for I had gone with the multitude, I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holyday.”

Psalm 42:4

Yet notice the confession of the psalmist even in his own misery. Acknowledging the sovereignty of God over even these things, he attributes them to God by calling them “thy waves and thy billows” (verse 7). It is this faith that in verse 8 shows us the answer we most desperately need to our question of “When?”.

“Yet the Lord will command his lovingkindness in the day time, and in the night his song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of my life.”

Psalm 42:8

When? “The Lord will command his lovingkindness in the daytime.” When? “And in the night his song shall be with me.” Day and night, we confess with the psalmist that God is with us. There is no time that we cannot lift up our prayer unto the God of our life without knowing that He is listening. We remember the words of Jesus, that he “will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever” (John 14:16). God dwells with us in the Spirit of Christ and nothing can separate us.

With this we are content, but never satisfied. We long for the Lord’s Day because we understand that going to church is the closest we get to heaven on this side of death. And so ultimately, we thirst after God in that we desire to be with Him in heaven. We look forward to that time when it will not be only one day out of seven, but all eternity. We love to sing praises in the midst of our friends and family at church, and how much greater will it be when we will sing God’s praises with all the multitude of his elect? We long to be rid of these our sinful natures which so often mar communion with our God. Only when we behold our God in the person of Jesus Christ our Lord will we stop asking, “When?” Until then, our confession will be, “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness” (Psalm 17:15).

“Yet athirst for thee I cry,

God of life, O when shall I

Come again to stand before Thee

In Thy Temple and adore Thee.”

Psalter 416:1b

Bruce Feenstra