The following is the intro to Nancy’s new book The Quiet Place: Daily Devotional Readings.
It’s not easy to find a quiet place these days. Every parent with little ones (or teens or grandkids) knows what I’m talking about. So do students. And those working in the marketplace. And anyone who shops at retail outlets or eats out in restaurants. (I’d like a nickel for every time I’ve asked a server: “Any chance you could turn down the music a bit so we can talk?”) For that matter, it can be hard to find a quiet place in our own homes—even for those of us who live alone.
From environmental clatter over which we have no control, to clamor of our own making and choosing, we are subjected (or subject ourselves) to phones chirping and buzzing, pagers beeping, email reminders chiming, music blaring, appliances ding-donging, Skype whoosh-ing, people chattering, horns honking, video games, well, what noise don’t they make?!—even “white noise” masking other noises in many of our workplaces. And beyond all that, there’s the inner racket that often reverberates in our heads and hearts—perhaps the hardest realm of all to find a quiet place.
Truth be told, in many cases, we find it difficult to live without our noise. Certainly one of the curses of our age is that we can’t bear to be alone, to be still, to be quiet.
I am currently in my fiftieth year of walking with the Lord. One of the greatest delights of those years has been the joy of communing with Him, hearing Him speak through His Word, by His Spirit. At the same time, one of my greatest, perennial struggles has been the temptation to let other sounds and voices crowd out His voice . . . not getting still enough, long enough, to hear His voice; trying in vain to cultivate intimacy with the Savior while on the run and in the midst of incessant hullabaloo and activity.
Far too often, far too many of us—myself included—opt for checking Facebook over meditating on His Book, playing Words With Friends over savoring the Word of our dearest Friend.
Even with an endless array of games, toys, and electronic gadgets, we are easily bored. Given a momentary lull in the action, we can’t resist picking up our smartphones; texting, IM’ing, or calling a friend; checking email, blogs, Facebook, or Twitter; playing computer games, listening to music, turning on the TV, watching YouTube clips, or clicking on news, weather, and sports apps.
And here’s what’s so sad: Despite the proliferation of devices to fill the empty spaces of our lives and hearts, pervasive poverty of soul is epidemic, even among those of us who claim to be followers of the Prince of Peace.
Over the years, the devotional writings of the likes of our Puritan forebears (The Valley of Vision), Charles Spurgeon (Chequebook of the Bank of Faith, Morning by Morning, Evening by Evening), Oswald Chambers (My Utmost for His Highest), Mrs. Charles E. Cowman (Streams in the Desert), Elisabeth Elliot, and John Piper, along with numerous lesser known authors, have served to help collect my distracted heart and to whet my appetite for Christ and His Word.
It is my hope that this volume will help you cultivate a quiet heart and find fresh springs of blessing in the presence of the Lord.
I would hasten to remind you that, however useful such a resource may be, it can in no way substitute for getting into the Word itself. Think of this book, or any other devotional book, as merely an appetizer, a “pre-taste” of the meal to come. These readings are not intended to supplant your need for God’s Word, but simply to create hunger, stimulate your appetite, and tune your senses and heart to long for more of Him. One sure way to be spiritually scrawny is to attempt to subsist on short devotional readings that were intended only to send you to His Book for the “real meal.”
In order to get the most out of these readings—and more importantly, the “main course” of Scripture reading and meditation —look for a quiet place, away from unnecessary distractions. Your quiet place may be indoors or out; it may be lovely or plain, perhaps nothing more than a small closet. When you get to that place, hard as it might be, impossible as it may seem, I would encourage you to turn off your electronic devices—better yet, leave them in another room! Ask God to give you a quiet heart; pray with the psalmist: “I will hear what God the Lord will speak . . . .” (Ps. 85:8 NKJV). Then, with an open Bible, listen for the still, small voice of your Shepherd. And when He speaks, be quick to say, “Yes, Lord. I have heard, and I will follow.”