Holy Awkward Silence

Blaise Pascal was a French writer, mathematician, inventor, and theologian who lived in the 1600s. Pascal said that.

All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone

I don’t fully agree with his assessment, but I do agree with the notion that we tend to be at odds with silence. We regularly attempt to fill moments of quiet with distraction in the name of fending off boredom. People, including me, seem to instinctively grab their phones, tablets, books, laptops, music, or run to binge something on Netflix when they have a moment alone. We tend to actively avoid quiet moments of contemplation in favor of distraction. I think this is harming us spiritually.

I think this happens because we are afraid of what quiet contemplation will mean. We could be afraid of the questions that we will ask about ourselves and the world around us. We might be even more afraid of the answers to those questions. We are afraid that when we ask ourselves the big questions and then give the answers some thought, we will be forced into action. We will have to change something about ourselves and we don’t really want that. We prefer to remain comfortable and distracted instead of uncomfortable and fully engaged with God and His calling on our lives.

When I was working as a college minister a few years ago, I noticed that many students felt overwhelmed by their schedules and were struggling to stay afloat. They often experienced anxiety about everything listed on their calendar. Some of them had schedules that were so bad I felt anxious for them. It was a serious problem for many of them and I would wager that it is a serious issue for many of us as well.

One of the things I incorporated into our weekly meeting to help combat this was 5 minutes of absolute silence dedicated to prayer and contemplation. I knew that for most of the students, it was going to be the only 5 minutes of intentional silence that they would get most weeks. I called it the Holy Awkward Silence. It was awkward at first because most of them weren’t used to it. It was uncomfortable. Every tiny noise was a distraction. However, over time, it became a holy space where they could contemplate the big questions about God, calling, work, mission, and purpose.

We all need that space in our lives. Here are some scripture verses to help reflect on that notion.

We need that space in our lives. Here are some scripture verses for reflection.

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.” – Psalm 46:10


This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:

“In repentance and rest is your salvation,
    in quietness and trust is your strength,
    but you would have none of it. – Isaiah 30:15


Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. -Mark 1:35


I meditate on your precepts
    and consider your ways.
I delight in your decrees;
    I will not neglect your word. – Psalm 119:15-16


Questions for reflection:

  1. Am I easily distracted from contemplating the big questions in life?
  2. Do I fear boredom?
  3. Do I dedicate time in my week to quiet meditation and contemplation on God, His character and nature, or His word?
  4. Do I find periods of silence to be uncomfortable? If so, why?

One thought on “Holy Awkward Silence

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