J. R. Miller
The Blessing of Quietness
It would seem that anybody could keep still and quiet. It requires no exertion, we would say. Work is hard—but it ought to be easy to rest. It takes effort to speak; it ought to be easy just to be silent.
But we all know that few things are harder for most people than to be still. Our lives are like the ocean, in their restlessness. This is one of the proofs of our immortality. We are too great to be quiet. A stone has no trouble in keeping still. A clam never gets nervous. The human soul was made for God and its very grandeur renders its repose and quiet, amid the things of earth the most difficult of all attainments.
Yet quietness is a lesson that is set for us with great frequency in the Bible. We are told that the effect of righteousness is quietness. The Shepherd leads his sheep by the quiet waters. We are told to "study to be quiet"—to be ambitious to be quiet, as a marginal reading gives it. The apparel of a meek and quiet spirit, Peter says, "Is it a womanly adorning which is in the sight of God, of great price." A dry morsel and quietness therewith, the wise man tells us, is better than feasting with strife. Then we are assured that in quietness and in confidence there is strength.
Thus the thought of quietness, shines with very bright luster in the Scriptures. It is used sometimes in its literal sense. Evidently God does not like noise. Then sometimes, it is used to denote the restful spirit. Restlessness it is not spiritually beautiful. Peace is a high attainment. Thus quietness indicates a rich Christian culture. It is not easily reached. Soldiers say that in war it is much harder to stand still under fire—than it is to rush into the battle. It is easier to be in the midst of the active duties and struggles of spiritual life—than it is to be compelled to wait and be still. Waiting is harder than working. For many people it requires more strength to work quietly—than it does to bluster. It is only the great engine which runs noiselessly; the little machine fusses and sputters. Quietness in a man or a woman, is a mark of strength.
Many people suppose that noise indicates strength. They think a person is a great preacher just in proportion to the loudness of their voice. They mistakenly think—that eloquence is noise; that Boanerges had great spiritual power; that the noisy man was the strong one; that people who make the most bluster and show, are the greatest workers. But a closer observation soon shows us, that this is an untrue measurement. Loudness is not power.
This great preacher was the one who most deeply and widely impressed other lives, turning them from sin to holiness and made them blessings in the world. Noise is impertinent in Christ's work, and only detracts from the preacher's power.
In all departments of life, it is the quiet forces which affect most. The sunbeams fall all day long, silently, unheard by human ear; yet there is in them a wondrous energy and a great power for blessing and good. Gravitation is a silent force, with no rattle of machinery, no noise of engines, no clanking of chains, and yet it holds all the stars and worlds in their orbits and swings them through space with unvarying precision. The dew falls silently at night when we sleep, and yet it touches every plant and leaf and flower with new life and beauty. It is in the lightening, not in the thunder-peal, that the electric energy resides. Thus even in nature, strength lies in quietness, and the mightiest energies work noiselessly.
The same is true also in moral and spiritual things. It is in the calm, quiet life—that the truest strength is found. The power that is blessing the world these days—comes from the purity, sweetness, and self-denial of gentle mother-love, from the voiceless influence of example in faithful fathers, from the patience and unselfishness of devoted sisters, from the tender beauty of innocent child-life in homes; above all—from the silent cross and the divine Spirit's breathings of gentle stillness. The agencies that are doing the most to bless the world are the noiseless ones. Spiritual power seems to hide itself in silent ministries and to shun those that advertise themselves. "The kingdom of heaven comes not with observation."
If therefore we would be strong—we must learn to be quiet. A noisy talker is always weak, lacking the royal power of control. Quietness in speech, is a mark of self-mastery. The Scripture says, "If any stumbles not in word, the same is a perfect person, able to bridle the whole body also." The tendency of the grace of Christ in the heart, is to soften and refine the whole nature. It makes the very tones of the voice gentler. It curbs boisterousness, into quietness. It represses angry feelings, and softens them into gentleness of love. It restrains and subdues resentment, teaching us to return kindness for unkindness, gentleness for rudeness, blessing for cursing, prayer for despiteful usage. "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
The love of Christ in the heart—makes one like Christ himself, and he is quiet. He was never flustered. He never fumed nor fretted, was never worried. He never spoke hastily on the street. There was a calmness in his soul, which showed itself in every word he spoke, in every look of his eye, in all his bearing.
It is well that we learn the lesson of quietness. It is a secret of power. It will save us from outbursts of temper, and from saying the rash and hasty words, which an hour afterward, we would be sorry for having said, and which if spoken would make so much bitterness and trouble for us. It will enable us to be cheerful and patient amid the cares and vexations of life.
There is a blessing in being still and quiet in the time of suffering. "Does it hurt you severely?" One asked of a friend who lay with a broken arm. "Not when I keep it still," was the answer. This is the secret of much of the victoriousness we see in rejoicing Christians. They conquer the pain and the bitterness, by keeping still. They do not ask questions, nor demand to know why they have trials. They believe in God, and are so sure of his love and wisdom, that no doubt, no fear, and no uncertainty pain them. Peace is their pillow, because they have learned to be still. Their quietness robs trial of its sharpness, sorrow of its bitterness, death of its sting, and the grave of its victory.
Quietness is a blessed secret for the wives and mothers in the home. It is impossible for any gentlewoman, though her household life be even ideally Christian and happy, to avoid having many experiences that try her sensitive spirit. Probably the most perfect earthly marriage has its times, especially in its earliest years, its harsh incidents and its crude contacts, which tend to disturb the wife's heart and give her pain. It is hard, or at least it takes time, for the average man to learn to be so gentle—that no word, touch, act, habit, or disposition of his, shall ever hurt the heart of the woman he loves even most tenderly and truly. On her part—nothing but the love which is not easily provoked, which can be silent and sweet—not silent and sullen—but silent and sweet—in any circumstances, can make even holiest wedded life what it should be. Blessed is the wife who has learned this lesson.
Every home with its parents and children presents a problem of love, which only the spirit of quietness can solve. Tastes differ. Individuality is oftentimes strong and aggressive. There are almost sure to be willful, self-assertive spirits in even the smallest family, those that want their own way, that are not disposed to do even their fair share of the yielding. In some homes there are despotic spirits. In the best there are diversities of spirit, and the process of self-discipline and training requires years before the entire household can dwell together in ideal sweetness.
A German musician with an ear exquisitely sensitive to harmony, soon after arriving in our country, attended a church. But the singing was most discordant, jarring painfully upon his trained ear. He could not courteously go out of the church while the service was in progress, and therefore he resolved to endure the torture as patiently as possible. But soon he distinguished, amid the discord of the congregation, one voice-the soft, clear voice of a woman, singing calmly, steadily, and truly. She was not disturbed by the noisy, discordant notes of her companions in the worship—but sang on patiently, firmly, and sweetly. And as the visitor listened, one voice after another was drawn by this one singer's gentle influence into harmony. Until before the hymn had been finished, the whole congregation was singing in perfect unison.
So it is often in the making of a home. At first, the individual lives are willful, uncontrolled, and self-assertive, and there is discord in the household life. It takes time and most patient love to bring all into sweet harmony. But if the wife and mother, the real homemaker, has learned the blessed lesson of quietness, her life is the one of calm, clear, true song, which never falters, and which brings all the other lives, little by little, up to its own gentle key—until at last the life of the home is indeed a sweet song of love.
Sometimes it is the daughter and sister in the home, whose quiet sweetness blesses the whole household. She has learned the lesson of patience and gentleness. She has smiles for everyone. She has the tact to dissipate little quarrels by her kind words. She softens the father's ill temper when he comes in weary from the day's cares. She is a peacemaker in the home, a happiness-maker, through the influence of her own lovingness of spirit, and draws all at length—into harmony with her own quietness and peace.
These are familiar illustrations of the blessing of quietness. Wherever we find this quality in any life, it has a wondrous influence. It surely is a lesson worth learning, better than the winning of the crown. But can it be learned? Can the blustering, quick-tempered, rash-speaking man or woman learn to be quiet and self-mastered? Yes! Moses learned it, until he became the meekest man. John learned it, until he became the beloved disciple, lying on Jesus' bosom. Any one who will enter Christ's school can learn it, for he says: "Come unto me; Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; and you shall find rest unto your soul."
Quietness never can come through the hushing of the world's noise, so that there shall be nothing to try or irritate the spirit. We cannot find or make a quiet place to live in, and thus get quiet in our own soul. We cannot make the people about us loving and gentle that we shall never have anything uncongenial or unkindly to vex or annoy us. Nothing but the peace of God in the heart can give it. Yet we can have this peace if we will simply and always do God's will and then trust him. A quiet heart—will give a quiet life!