A Quiet Place

by Thom Mollohan

The 120-degree heat of the sun bore down on my head with fierce zeal. At the moment there was no wind, but I was glad, for it would have made things worse—it would have been like aiming a blow-dryer at my face from only three inches away and turning it to the highest speed.
I determinedly clambered up a steep hill so I could look across the great rift that separated the Negev Desert from the Sinai. As I reached the pinnacle of the crag, all around I could only see barren wasteland. Before my feet was a small gorge at least 300 feet deep; its far side rose sharply into another cliff face. Beyond each rocky and lifeless summit was another. A host of desert mountain tops marched on until they faded from sight in the dusty haze of the hot afternoon.
Before completely losing myself in the brilliant landscape before me, I glanced back and realized that the rest of my team members were preparing for a siesta, leaving me to my own devices for a time. Taking advantage of the opportunity, I found a stone shelf near the top, facing the west, which was somewhat flat and out of sight. I planted myself there so I could have a few moments alone.
Well… not exactly alone. It was, in fact, an opportunity to visit with God without the distractions of a busy schedule or the pressures of decision making which constantly assault me.
As I looked to the west, I thought about the mountains on the Egyptian side of the rift called the Sinai. Not so far from where I sat, the Israelites had been delivered by God from their centuries-long bondage and had marched towards the fulfillment of the special promises God had made to them. Nearby was the place where the Lord had saved His nation from the attack of a hostile army as they escaped through the impassable obstacle of the Red Sea as it drowned their pursuers.
Sitting in this historic setting, I thought of all those people recorded in the Bible who had been used by God to powerfully change the world. What set them apart and gave them a place in His mighty movements to work out His will for humanity? They couldn’t have done it if they were not ultimately willing to listen, trust and obey the Lord. Perhaps that was why God’s prophets and even the Lord Jesus often withdrew from their busy lives to the remote wilderness.
Until I had spent that tiny bit of time in the desert, I had always envisioned the wilderness mentioned in the Scriptures as more of a Rocky Mountain or Appalachian Trail kind of wilderness containing plenty of green plants and plenty of animals. But unlike those places I had visited previously, I found the wilderness of the Negev Desert to be absolutely silent. There were no animals or birds to betray the ominous silence that seemed to fill my ears nearly as tangibly as cotton balls.
Maybe in brief retreats like these where one is momentarily removed from the buzzing drone of human need, one can more readily hear the still, small voice of God (1 Kings 19:12). Isolated places like this, where the blare of ignorance and idolatry seem more remote, often facilitate this sort of intimate communication with God.
As I sat on my little rocky crag, I prayed. I praised God as I sat quietly in the vast silence. It was good to be alone with the Lord, if even for a little while.
But then a fly landed on my arm. I flicked it away and resumed praying, but the fly came back… this time with friends. I tried to shoo the crowd of critters away, but they buzzed around my head all the more. I relentlessly continued with my prayer and worship as I became agitated and lost my focus. Finally, it dawned on me that my diminutive assailants were like many of the little annoyances which distract all believers throughout their walk with the Lord. Little things have a way of buzzing into the forefront of our thinking the very moment we try to settle down and spend time in prayer or in God’s Word.
Let’s face it. Little things accumulate so quickly in our lives that many of us are nearly drowning in details. There is such a buzzing going on in our minds so much of the time, even though we may go regularly to church and may be serving Him in some capacity, that we can’t hear a thing He says to us. It’s like watching hundreds of TV channels all at the same time. God’s signal is being transmitted as His Holy Spirit moves in our lives, but we cannot make out what He’s saying—we can’t see the tree for the forest surrounding it. Consequently, our vital connection with God becomes unclear under the deluge of signals sent our way. It becomes difficult to be refreshed or to receive guidance from God. Perhaps God is sending divine provisions, but we cannot find them in all the clutter of our fast-paced lives.
It’s those little things that dilute our passion for the Savior. It’s the little things in life that get under our skin. Little annoyances constantly interfere with the peace of God that should be filling our troubled minds. It’s these little things that imperceptibly compromise our spiritual integrity and draw us from the sure footing of walking with the Savior.
But what can be done with the little buggers? We might try to swat a few here and there, but we can easily allow them to steal our gaze from the face of Jesus. Trying to eliminate all distractions is too distracting of a venture to venture upon. We should eliminate those things which can be removed while recognizing that we cannot cut ourselves off completely from our responsibilities, nor can we foresee every contingency that might introduce distractions into our lives.
We should also recognize that there is a spiritual power at work that does not want us to tune into God and will attempt to increase our disarray. While alone with God at a critical time in His life, Jesus found Himself the target of distracting ideas, suggestions and temptations from the prince of evil (see Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13, & Luke 4:1-13). We too, can find ourselves subject to notions and impulses that will try to grab hold of our attentions and keep our gaze turned away from the Prince of Peace.
These spiritual flies will buzz and buzz, but we need to just let them buzz while we stay focused seeking God’s face in His Word, through prayer, and in service to Him for the sake of His kingdom. How appropriate that a nickname for the devil is Beelzebub, which means Lord of the Flies. He is indeed the lord of distraction and don’t forget he is the lord of lies, as well. We too easily follow his leading over the leading of God Himself.
Nevertheless, we have in God both true light and real life. Let us not allow ourselves then to be robbed of an unspeakably marvelous gift by failing to spend quality time with Him in prayer and in personal worship. Even the lord of flies looms tiny and inconsequential compared to the King of all creation.
“For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He is the one you praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes.” Deuteronomy 10:17, 21

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