Silence plays many roles. In the hustle of our everyday lives, it is easy to forget the impact that silence can have on us. It is often those moments of quiet that allow us to grow or experience calm, but there are also times when it is negative. Depending on the situation and the individuals involved, silence can feel awkward, calming, offensive, loving, or comfortable. To one person, it may be a nice pause for reflection while to someone else it may be uncomfortable.
Here is a look at a few of the roles silence plays in Scripture.
Proverbs 10:19 and 11:12 tell us that silence is a sign of wisdom and understanding. Instead of belittling someone or stirring up disagreements, in some cases, it is wise to be silent. Jesus exemplifies the use of wisdom in silence when he was ridiculed and chose not to answer (Isaiah 53:7, Matthew 26:63). God also commanded Job to be silent so that He could teach Job wisdom (Job 33:31-33).
Silence can also be a way of conceding that the other is right in a disagreement. The Sadducees questioned Jesus regarding who someone will be married to in Heaven if they remarry, and they were silent when Jesus responded with truth from Scripture. (Matt 22:34). When the Pharisees asked whether it was lawful to heal a man on the Sabbath as Jesus had done, they were silent when Jesus responded by asking whether it was lawful to do good or harm on the Sabbath (Mark 3:4).
In other cases, silencing someone means that their power has been taken from them. Psalm 63:11 says that “the mouths of liars will be stopped.” In Jeremiah 48:2, the downfall of Madmen meant that it would be silenced. We also see that losing one’s voice means losing power in Jeremiah 51:55 when the Lord was “laying Babylon waste and stilling her mighty voice.”
Then, in Mark 4:39, we see that silence can bring calm. The disciples asked Jesus to help when they were in a boat and encountered a terrifying storm. Jesus commanded the winds and waves to be quiet, and there was calm.
Silence can also convey wonder and amazement. In Acts 15:12, a group was silent as Barnabas and Paul told them about miracles God had done. People were also silent in amazement when Jesus answered prudently about (Luke 20:26).
We can also feel distant when we experience silence from someone. David pleaded with the Lord not to be silent when he cried out to the Lord. He said in his prayer, “if you be silent to me, I become like those who go down to the pit” (Psalm 28:1). David felt he would not have the Lord’s presence with him if the Lord was silent. He pleaded with the Lord not the silent again in Psalm 35:22 so that God could vindicate him for the wrongs that were done to him.
Silence can also feel as if wrongs are being ignored. Isaiah asks the Lord not to be silent when Israel experienced suffering. He felt that the Lord was afflicting them if He kept quiet (Isaiah 64:12). Habakkuk also asked the Lord why He was silent when so much evil was happening around them (Habakkuk 1:13). He prayed that the Lord would help them and not be silent.
There are so many ways that silence affects us, and it typically has more of an impact than we realize. By keeping quiet, we have the power to bring joy or pain. While we are rushing around each day, let’s also remember to wise with our use of silence.
What other roles has silence played in your life?