The key is that when you do engage in silence and solitude, you are purposeful with that time and protect its intent. As the eighteenth-century pastor and theologian Jonathan Edwards wrote, “A true Christian…delights at times to retire from all mankind, to converse with God in solitary places. And this has its peculiar advantages for fixing his heart, and engaging its affections. True religion disposes persons to be much alone in solitary places, for holy meditation and prayer.”
I daresay that one of the greatest threats to the spiritual vitality of Christians today is the absence of routine silence and solitude. In 2017, Domo Inc., a cloud-based software company, measured how much data humans across the world generate each minute. Their findings were staggering: every minute, 15,220,700 texts were sent, 103,447,520 spam emails were delivered, 527,260 photos were shared on Snapchat, 4,146,600 videos were viewed on YouTube, and Amazon made $258,751 in sales. Altogether, Americans alone used 2,657,700 gigabytes of data every 60 seconds. Without a doubt, these numbers have only gone up in the past few years. We live in an unprecedented era of noise and distraction.
A well-known Christian wrote, “I think the devil has made it his business to monopolize on three elements: noise, hurry, and crowds…Satan is quite aware of the power of silence.” After reading these words for the first time, I would have guessed they were said by a pastor or theologian of our generation. But the person who wrote them was Jim Elliot—a missionary who died in 1956. These words were penned well before computers, smartphones, texting, social media, and emails. If Christian leaders were concerned by society’s appetite for chaos over calm before the advent of these inventions, imagine the effect technology has on our lives today. To say the least, the digital age of accessibility and connectivity has wreaked havoc on our ability to uphold the sanctity of silence and solitude.
Now, it’s worth stating that I am not anti-technology. Technology is woven into the fabric of my life, as I suspect it is with yours. Not a day passes where I don’t use it or feel its impact. We enjoy countless advantages and conveniences in life because of technology. More than that, technology has been instrumental in gospel advancement around the world.
I am not suggesting we cut ties with technology. I am, however, advocating that we regularly cut the power to it and dedicate part of each day to silence and solitude. No phones. No tablets. No computers. No ability to hear that notification alerting you of a text message or comment on your social media post. Turn technology off.
Purposeful Silence and Solitude
The silence and solitude we need are not happenstantial, where circumstances of the day coincidentally result in a quiet environment. The kind of silence and solitude I am advocating for is purposeful, whereby this act is not an end, but the means to the greatest end—worship. Time must be deliberately set aside for this endeavor. Perhaps Robert Plummer, a New Testament scholar, states it best: “Times of solitude and silence for the Christian are not for a mental or emotional boost, but acts of worship where one’s focus can be placed unwaveringly on the gracious God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The day-to-day cares and distractions of this world so easily tug our minds and hearts from the preeminence God deserves in our lives. There is nothing inherently evil about technology or social media, yet their influence can subtly impose great harm to the soul simply because they consume our attention with such ease.