February 4, 2022

Why Are You Afraid Of Silence?

In returning and rest shall you be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength; and you would not.  Isaiah 30:15

If you should pick up a book by Erling Kagge, you would find a drab, monochrome cover imprinted with only the title of the book, a subtitle and the author’s name. The title: “Silence!”  The sub-title, “In the age of noise,” and the author, Erling Kagge.  And like myself, you may be asking yourself, “And who is Erling Kagge and why did he write the book?”

The answer to that question is both novel and meaningful. First, he’s a Norwegian adventurer who became the first person ever to trek across Antarctica, but that’s only part of the reason why he’s unique among all the adventurers of the 20th century. The aviation company that flew him to the coast where he began his adventure insisted that he take a radio with him so he might call for help should he need it. Kagge took the radio; however, before he started the journey he removed the batteries from the radio and deposited them in the airplane’s trash bin.

Sara Wheeler, writing a book review, wrote, “As the subtitle (“In the Age of Noise”) indicates the notion that cultivating silence is mightily unfashionable as well as hard to achieve. Mr. Kagge begins by asking himself the questions: ‘What is silence? Where is it? Why is it more important now than ever?’ He reckons that he came up with 33 “attempts at answering them.”[1]

He was absolutely alone for 50 long days! While Kagge is unique, he is not lacking education or brains. A lawyer by trade, he is a serious art collector and publisher as well. Of his experience he said, “The quieter I became, the more I heard!”  But the more he heard, the more difficult it became to be at peace with himself.

Ponder his experience of spending 50 days entirely alone without a cellphone, a TV, a radio, the din of traffic, the constant chatter of people and traffic, and the list could go on and on. He learned what I experience in part many years ago when I was in the high country of Colorado where I grew up. Silence may be the absence of noise but it is certainly not the absence of sound. Is it any wonder that we must shut out the noise to hear the voice of God Himself?  Some 3000 years ago, God Himself said, “In quietness and confidence is your strength! (Isaiah 30:15).  And David wrote, “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him. … Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him.”

Does this advice ever fly in the face of modern life today? Try turning off all noise-making appliances in your life for just 24 hours and see if you can handle the silence? There is value in finding a place of solitude where you take a Bible as a companion and earnestly listen to the quiet voice of the Holy Spirit who will encourage, reprove, counsel, guide, and direct your life.

And why is it that we are afraid of silence? Partly because we are not at peace with ourselves. Kagge put it, “it is the fear of getting to know ourselves better.”

I love God’s expression, “In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength,” but those words are followed by a stinging injunction, “But you would not!”  Another translation puts it, “But you would have none of it.” Think about it!


Resource reading: Psalm 37:3-11

[1] Wall Street Journal, December 22, 2017, p. A-15.