The Power of Pause
Updated: Oct 3, 2020
“My spirit is weak inside me— inside, my mind is numb. I remember the days long past; I meditate on all your deeds; I contemplate your handiwork. I stretch out my hands to you; my whole being is like dry dirt, thirsting for you. —Selah“ Psalm 143:4-6 (CEB)
Unless you are a well trained speaker, you likely fall prey to filler words. You know, those little words that fill the gaps between our thoughts to avoid awkward silence when we are speaking. Words like, “like, um , so, and you know.” Words that occupy the space in between.
Those well trained in speaking work hard to omit such words from their speech and replace them with a well-timed pause. They rehearse. They practice. They’re intentional.
A pause is a moment of silence that gives the hearer time to catch up and grasp hold of that which was just spoken. A moment to think and reflect on the speakers words. Pauses are fought for and hard earned. Why? Because we don’t typically pause in our thoughts, it is not our nature to pause with our words. But a well-timed pause has power.
It teaches the speaker patience and helps the hearer process. It forces thoughts to be ordered and words to be calculated. It allows time for clarity and conviction.
Pause is not a new concept, it’s a biblical principle. Found mostly in the Psalms, David uses the power of pause to slow the reader down and strongly suggest they take a moment to reflect before proceeding to the next sentence. Represented by the word “Selah,” to pause means to be still and calmly think about what was just said. To intentionally stop reading and ponder, allowing the Holy Spirit to impress upon our heart what He wants us to know about the previous text.
Unlike any other time in our lives, we are walking through unprecedented pause. This God-appointed season is unfamiliar territory. We may not know what to do with our temporary suspension of “normal," but God has purpose. Pause has purpose.
In polling friends on social media platforms, asking what their greatest struggles are presently and what God is teaching them, it was evident that behind our four walls, we are struggling with vastly different circumstances from house to house. And as believers, we are beginning to realize things about the Father, ourselves, and our preferences we might not have uncovered without them.
We are missing each other. We miss community and doing life together. We miss each other’s physical presence, face to face encouragement, and warm hugs, realizing all the more that we are created to live relationally.
But God... He’s teaching us how precious relationships are. We are realizing the treasure certain people are in our lives and how blessed we are by their presence. We long to see them again, much like Paul longed for those he wrote to from jail. We may not be imprisoned, (well, some may be antsy and feel like they are) but like Paul, our means are presently limited and we long to be in the presence of people we love. We were created for community. We learn from and support each other as the body of Christ. Something we just can‘t do on our own. And yet while we wait, God is drawing people into His presence, prompting them to think on His Word, and consider what He wants to do in their lives personally. He is impressing the importance of making our relationship with Him our first thought and highest priority. He has purpose.
We are battling fear and anxiety. Fear over our futures due to lost jobs and businesses. Anxious over reduced incomes. Concerned that masks and social distancing will become our new normal. We are over church online and eager to gather under one roof again, but worried how long it will take to be able to safely do so.
But God... God is bigger than our circumstances. He speaks and waves listen, and He tells the storms where to go. He is teaching His children to pray His promises with confidence, fixing their eyes on Him and not the problem. Teaching us to draw our strength and confidence from Him, and be His hands and feet to those around us. He’s gathering families under one roof around the computer screen for church, around the dinner table restoring conversation and connection, and giving them time to laugh and play, and walk and talk together while packed schedules and extra-curricular activities and sports channels are put on hold. Family units are reconnecting. Online church attendance is growing. Child psychologists are reporting significantly lower levels of anxiety in their young patients. He has purpose.
We are overwhelmed. Many are navigating added responsibilities put on their plates by having to work and school from home...with everyone home. Some are doing all that and dealing with new health concerns on top. Others are cooped up with difficult family members be it personalities, behavior issues, or the very real struggle of living with a spouse suffering from PTSD and children with special needs, and no outside help.
But God... He is teaching us what we have control over (our own actions, reactions, words and thoughts) and what we don’t (our circumstances). He’s prompting us to take our burdens to the cross daily, and pick up His new mercies every morning. He is impressing the importance of forgiveness and showing grace, granting us empathy toward one another’s situations. He is stirring up generosity, a spirit of prayer, and focus on gratitude to get through our difficult days. And He is causing us to lean on Him more than ever as our daily source of strength, provision and joy. He has purpose.
We are struggling with time management. Personal time flows into work, school, chore and family time. We have no real separation between the events of our days. Schedules and regular routines have been tossed out the window. Many of us have to think long and hard about what day of the week it is! Others are bored and struggling to find another project to do, and feeling guilty if they’re idle too long.
But God... He is revealing that which truly matters and shouldn’t be taken for granted. He’s ordering our days and establishing the work of our hands. Some are learning afresh how to manage their time. Others are learning to make good use of extra time on their hands. Some are learning to depend on God in new ways, while others are learning what it means to be still in His presence. Some have filled their days with overdue projects and checked all the “Honey Do’s” off their list. While others will have seemingly accomplished very little, but rested their weary souls and found their way into the arms of Jesus. He has purpose.
We are bordering on depression. For some, motivation is starting to wane and we are finding ourselves feeling tired and blue. Comfort food is calling our name and discipline is lacking. Guilt and jealousy are setting in as we read about others renewing their love for things we don’t have time or energy for, like cooking, exercise, reading, home projects, and new hobbies.
But God... He has personal purpose in the pause for each one of us. He has purpose in sadness and pain. He has purpose in trying times. He reveals what He wants to heal. Things like fear, anxiety, bitterness, broken relationships, unhealthy dependence on people and things, misguided priorities, and areas of vulnerability. I often say, “Don’t hurry the valleys.” There’s treasure to be found there. May the Lord be given time and space to do a deep and lasting work in each one of our lives. He has purpose.
Given the “paused” state of our nation and much of the world, what if we transferred this biblical principle over to our present day lives? What if we took time each day to pause and give room for the Holy Spirit to speak into our situation, instead of filling every moment with busyness? What if we gave Him time to rearrange and change things in our heart that are long overdue like the projects on our "Honey Do" list?
The gap between two things is not necessarily meant to be filled, with filler words, busyness, or otherwise. As with learning to practice this concept in speaking, pause can be uncomfortable. Learning to use it effectively takes repetition. It takes rehearsing. It takes intentionality to be purposeful with our pause. Yet pause has the power to change our lives from the inside out.
If I could offer one prompt for your prayers lifted in the pause, one prompt for the time you carve out to still your mind and be alone, it would be this...
Jesus, what does my heart need to know from You today?
We are good at telling God what’s on our hearts in prayer. But how often are we being still and hearing what’s on His? If we really want to grow in our walk of faith, we must take time to let the Spirit speak. That two-way exchange constitutes real communication and authentic relationship.
Try carving out 20 to 30 minutes away from all distractions. If your mind is on overdrive, take pen and paper to write down your 'to do' list and clear those nagging thoughts out of the way. Sit long enough to quiet your mind and let the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit pierce your heart, which is the home of your thoughts. If the Holy Spirit lives within, His impressions flowing through you, through your personality, will sound a lot like you. Don't question it. When we ask, Jesus is faithful to answer if only we will listen long enough. Like lightbulb moments, revelations that come mind will line up with His Word and aptly apply truth to places where our heart needs to know it, and soothe our soul with His peace.
I personally like to have pen and journal in hand to write the revelation down, as it says in Habakkuk 2:2 Like taking dictation from the Father, sit until He speaks, and write until He stops.
When we pause and make room — meaning time and space — for God to speak to the innermost places, everything changes. Wrongs are made right, lies are replaced with truths, perspective is given, clarity granted, and our soul finds rest.
We may never have a collective pause in life like this again. Let’s lean into the Person (Jesus) who presented us with this pause and purpose to hear from Him!