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Training for Godliness: Silence & Solitude

Silence and solitude. These are important aspects but often neglected in today’s Church, in growing toward Christlikeness. In his letter to Timothy, the aged apostle Paul encourages him, “Train yourself for godliness.” (1 Tim. 4:7, ESV)

It takes work to be like Christ. As we have considered the various aspects of what comprises the spiritual disciplines, we come now to silence and solitude. On this, Don Whitney writes, “The Discipline of silence is the voluntary and temporary abstention from speaking so that certain spiritual goals might be sought.”[1] In other words, we engage in silence and solitude. Before we see how these two tools can help us grow in our Christlikeness, we need to establish what they are.

Whitney defines silence as limiting both outward and inward speech.[2] It is a choice to inhibit our communication. He describes solitude as “the Spiritual Discipline of voluntarily and temporarily withdrawing to privacy for spiritual purposes.”[3] Silence and solitude are two peas in the pod and as such offer the believer another manner for spiritual growth.

This in no way implies that if one sits in silence away from others that he or she will grow. It does not work that way. There must be an engagement in the heart for the purpose of being like Christ (cf. Rom. 8:28-29).

Thus, with the proper definition and understanding of how it works, we can now see the specifics of the way that this looks for us today. To begin with, when we engage in silence and solitude, we mimic Christ. In Matthew 14:23 we read this, “And after he dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray.” Jesus Himself left the crowds. He was meeting a variety of physical and spiritual needs. Whitney makes a powerful point, “Put yourself in Jesus’ sandals for a moment. People are clamoring for your help and have many real needs. You are able to meet all those needs. Can you ever feel justified in pulling away to be alone? Jesus did.”[4]

When we follow Christ, we engage in silence and solitude. This means getting away from other people for a specific purpose: to be like Christ. This means not talking, not engaging in any forms of media (TVs, cellphones, internet, and even music). It is not just to be in silence. It is to quiet our souls, to “be still,” if you will (cf. Psa. 46:10). Whitney would go on to write, “Many of us need to realize the addiction we have to noise.”[5] This also means that we get away from others. This could be finding another room in the house away from other members of your household. If the weather permits, it may be finding a bench in a park. Solitude, as well as silence, is not tied to a specific place. You do not have to find a monastery

Whitney offers several reasons to engage in this spiritual discipline: “to hear the voice of God better,” “to express worship to God,” “to express faith in God,” “to seek the salvation of the Lord,” “to be physically and spiritually restored,” “to regain a spiritual perspective,” “to seek the will of God,” and “to learn control of the tongue.”[6]

Whitney also provides some practical steps to engage in the disciplines of silence and solitude (see pages 194-199). These two disciplines require discipline. It will be hard to mark off a period of time to be away from others and remain silent. But the rewards will be fruitful for your spiritual life.

Will you train yourself for godliness by practicing silence and solitude?

[1] Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1991), 184. [2] Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines, 184. [3] Ibid. [4] Ibid., 185. [5] Ibid., 186. [6] Ibid., 186-194.


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