Still and Small
What does it mean to sit in silence?
Adapted from a sermon at First United Methodist Church of Orlando.
The average person picks up their phone between 47 and 82 times per day. I fall right into the middle with an average of 63 pickups per day. We pick up our phones to check notifications — of which I average 56 per day, to read the news, to check social apps, to distract us from doing other things.
In the time it took to write this first paragraph, I received four messages and checked twitter twice. I’m not even kidding. It’s just part of the habit of connectedness I’ve developed. I’m willing to bet most of us in the room are in a similar situation.
We are constantly connected, constantly distracted, and constantly receiving information. On average, we are exposed to between 4,000 and 10,000 advertisements a day. This includes notifications, commercials, logos on clothing, signs, etc.
While our brain is constantly processing all of this information and dealing with the distractions on our phones, we’re only getting 6.8 hours of sleep per night and only 47 minutes of silence while awake.
We’re overstimulated, overworked, and under-rested.
God’s voice is still and small and easily lost in a world of distractions.
The Book of Job is believed to be one of the earliest writings in the Bible, written between the seventh and fourth centuries BCE. The book is a long-form poem that tells a story of Job, who loses everything in his life — family, possessions, land. He spends a significant portion of the story debating with his friends about why these things happened.
We pick up the story in chapter 23, where Job is lamenting about God being distant. Job is grieving, expressing his deep sorrow, and wondering where God is through his suffering.
2Today my complaint is again bitter;
my strength is weighed down because of my groaning.
3Oh, that I could know how to find him —
come to his dwelling place;
4I would lay out my case before him,
fill my mouth with arguments,
5know the words with which he would answer,
understand what he would say to me.
6Would he contend with me through brute force?
No, he would surely listen to me.
7There those who do the right thing can argue with him;
I could escape from my judge forever.
8Look, I go east; he’s not there,
west, and don’t discover him;
9north in his activity, and I don’t grasp him;
he turns south, and I don’t see.
Everything is terrible in Job’s world and he looks for God but cannot find him. Job feels that God is distant so he laments, crying out and hoping God will listen.
Have you ever felt like Job?
A lot of the distractions on our phone bring us news worth lamenting. Hurricanes and tsunamis causing massive devastation, political divisiveness, friends and family who are hurting or who have hurt us. There’s a lot in our lives worth lamenting.
Because we’re so connected, it’s easy to believe lamentation engulfs the entire world. It’s easy to get bogged down in the news, in the hurt, and, like Job, cry out “I go east and God’s not there, west and I don’t discover him; north and I don’t grasp him, south and I don’t see.”
God is in that still, small voice.
But are we listening?
Our vision statement calls us to seek God, but the number of distractions our world throws at us makes God difficult to hear. The noise in our world causes us to lament and not to listen. To cry out instead of seek.
God continues to be present. God continues to speak in that still, small voice.