The Discipline of Tuning Out

The Discipline of Tuning Out

“In the silence of the heart God speaks. If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you. Then you will know that you are nothing. It is only when you realize your nothingness, your emptiness, that God can fill you with Himself. Souls of prayer are souls of great silence.”[1]

[Mother Teresa]

It may be a huge understatement to say this past year was noisy. At least for me, the political news vied for my attention, the COVID news felt essential, my WhatsApp and email messages were constant and then there’s my home, which was most definitely in a near perpetual state of noise!

There’s this idea that to be learning and growing, we need to be informed, connected, keeping up. It can be almost shameful to be “uninformed.” Is it possible, however, that often the best learning happens in the quiet? That when we spend time in reflection, praying through what is happening, that our hearts and minds learn the character of God anew, his faithfulness again?

In Isaiah, we get a glimpse of what God intends for his people: “My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places” (Is. 32:18) and “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength” (Is. 30:15). This is both the eschatological vision and the hope of shalom breaking into earth now.

But rather than embracing the strength which comes from quietness and trust, we trade our own souls at peace for our sense of being informed. We exchange eyes fixed on Christ for eyes scanning the headlines, the feeds, the photos. We offer up our deep trust in our Father for the cheapened fear perpetuated by media outlets worldwide. We join the rest of the world in fear, anxiety, and distraction. What can we do?

I would like to humbly suggest that in these noisy times, the challenge before us is to tune out the noise. It’s coming at us from all angles. We all know the sources of noise have increased tenfold in a single generation. It is no longer a challenge to be informed; to keep up. Rather, it is a challenge to carve spaces of quiet, to slow our minds, to pursue peace in our hearts.

And to what end do we tune out, and seek quiet?

  • To wait for the Lord, because we know he will act: “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him” (Psalm 37:7)
  • To pursue peace deeply within our souls: “But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content” (Psalm 131:2)
  • To magnify the beauty of our gospel-changed hearts: “Let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious” (1 Peter 3:4)
  • To win the respect of outsiders: “Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters… to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: you should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody” (1 Thessalonians 4:10-12)

Am I willing to risk being uninformed in order to be at peace in my soul?

Am I willing to let go of the cheap sources of entertainment that add to the noise?

Am I willing to sit in silence for a few minutes—highly uncomfortable for those of us who are new to it—in order to hear the voice of God?

Am I willing to carve out those moments in my day?

When God’s women are at peace in their souls, they can offer hope to a restless world. When God’s women adorn themselves with a quiet spirit, they are authentically beautiful. When God’s women prioritize the stillness of their souls, they are prioritizing being filled by the Spirit. When God’s women seek to lead quiet lives, a watching world will take notice.

Let us know the value and wisdom in tuning out. Let us seek to put away the noise, to focus our eyes anew on Christ, and to reflect the light and beauty of Christ to an anxious world.

What about you? Are you feeling the need to tune out more than ever? What are some steps you’ve taken that have helped you tune out the noise and focus your mind and heart on Christ in these days?


[1] Teresa, M. (2010). In the Heart of the World: Thoughts, Stories, and Prayers. New World Library.

Photo by Timothy Kolczak on Unsplash

8 Comments

  1. Michele February 16, 2021

    Long before I even had a smart phone, in 2003, I think it was, the Lord spoke to me in a really clear way about not reading the news. So I just stopped. I had a couple of moments where I’d start to look, but the Holy Spirit was right there asking me what I was doing. I found out that if anything important happens, someone would tell me and I really don’t need to be ‘informed’. (As an enneagram 5, this was kind of a big deal, but so freeing). With the advent of social media, I definitely got sucked into the cycle of reading all kinds of articles and watching videos, etc. In 2016 I did a forty day Facebook fast. It wasn’t my first, but this one stuck. I don’t miss it at all. I purposefully limited my time checking on news during lockdown to five minutes per day max. I found I could see anything I needed to know in that much time. I know some people think I’m extreme, and some do look down on me for these decisions, but they’ve really helped me keep God’s perspective of what I do know is happening in the world. I kind of get embarrassed about it still, honestly, but I thought it was worth sharing to let anyone thinking about it know it IS possible to tune out and life does go on- and you WILL find out when things happen that you need to know about.

    1. Beth Barthelemy February 17, 2021

      Michelle – thanks so much for sharing your journey with tuning out on here! I’m with you that it is possible – but it’s very counter-cultural. It really gets back to the idea that we need disciplines to help us “tune out” – because it won’t happen without intention. I appreciate you sharing your intentional work in this area!

    1. Beth February 17, 2021

      Thanks Jenilee, glad it was encouraging. <3

  2. Stephanie February 17, 2021

    This year I have felt the Lord nudge me into cultivating silence. Your writing has fleshed out some areas where I didn’t even realize I was still letting the noise in! This was so good, thank you, Beth. Thank you for writing the words my heart needed to hear.

    1. Beth February 17, 2021

      I’m so grateful this was encouraging, Stephanie. Yes, totally learning the same from God this past year, and I’m thankful!

  3. Ruth February 17, 2021

    Loved the part about my people will abide in a place of peace. That really hit me as the neighborhood where we stay is anything but peaceful. In fact, just today there was some kind of fight out on the street while I was out taking clothes off the line. What a sweet reminder that God desires peaceful environments for his children even in the midst of this noisy world.

    1. Beth February 18, 2021

      I love that too Ruth!! Glad it resonated with you today <3

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