Getting Used to the Noise

It used to be that there was more attention given to the problems of noise pollution than we hear about these days. Of course, we’ve moved on to other problems and other pollutions that have become more significant and more important than just loud sounds of trucks and planes, or maybe we’ve just gotten used to the noise and the noise may be taking its toll. There are of course a lot of people who are concerned about today’s environment as people download thousands of songs, put ear buds in their ear channels, and crank it up to the point where you can’t hear anything surrounding you, but may be damaging your hearing as the days and the years go by.

In the Bible, noise is a fascinating thing. You may remember when Moses is coming down from the mountain from receiving the Ten Commandments, he heard the noise of the people and he was trying to interpret what it meant. Was there a war going on? Was there a celebration going on? Of course, the closer he got the more he realized that the something going on here was not good.  Noise.  You may recall too when Paul went to Mars Hill and was going to speak.  An interesting verse in Acts that is revealing as many of the people said, “What will this babbler say” (17:18).  Paul, who was preaching the Gospel, was treated by those who came and sat around listening to new ideas as little more than just a noise maker.  I suppose every preacher has experienced the feeling that some in the congregation see them in the same light, a babbler, a noise maker, while at the same time they may be preaching the wonderful, glorious gospel of our Lord Jesus.

In our world there are so many different instruments and ways that we can have noise going on. It is incredible there are all kind of devices and all kind of noise being made. Some time ago I was staying in a home that was right near the railroad tracks. As I went to sleep that night it was peaceful and quiet but in the middle of the night I was awakened by a train coming through my bedroom. That’s what it felt like, sounded like and what I thought whenever I woke up. Literally, the house was shaking and the windows were rattling and the train was blowing his whistle and it sounded like it was about two feet from the outside wall of the house. It was farther than that, but in the middle of the night it sure did shake the place.  The next day I asked the folks at the house, “Does that train wake y’all up every time it goes by in the night?”  They just laughed and said, “No, we’re used to the noise. We don’t hear it in the night and we don’t even pay attention to it when it goes by during the day.”  “Really,” I said. “Yeah.  We’re used to the noise and we don’t even notice it.” I suppose there are times when just getting used to the noise is a good thing and you don’t pay attention to it, but I do believe on the other hand that there are a lot of folks who have gotten used to noises that they need to pay attention to but yet they ignore.

We need to pay attention to the sudden shocking noise. For example, here in central Mississippi on the first day of the month at 12 o’clock noon the weather sirens go off for a test and I must confess every first day of the month it always gets my attention and sometimes shockingly so. I just don’t get used to the noise coming every thirty or thirty-one days. After I hear it for just a minute, I realize it’s the first of the month and they are testing the system. But, in a spiritual kind of way, there are times when the noise of life comes with a tragic sound or an alarming sound, suddenly, and while we should pay attention, many people do not. It is as though God has a spiritual alarm system whereby He tries to get our attention. Maybe it is a tragedy that has struck or a death that has taken place or a visit to the doctor for one of life’s sudden downturns and there’s the accompanying crash in life. Could it be that on occasion those noises, though you may ignore them, are simply God trying to get your attention to wake up and look up and take care of what He has entrusted you to take care of?

On the other hand, we need to pay attention to the soft stirring noise around us. The Bible describes God speaking to us sometimes in a still, small voice. For most parents and indeed all mothers, a baby can whimper in the middle of the night and those sounds are like shouts into her ear though they are just gentle groaning. The mother is compelled to see if the baby is okay or if the child needs something. It is amazing how the little gentle dripping of a faucet becomes more like a bass drum the longer you hear it and the more you know it needs attention. But God can speak in sudden loud noises and can speak in gentle soft stirring noises also by which He still is trying to get our attention.

This may sound strange but it is important to listen to the silent stop noises of life. Sometimes we get so used to the roar of the noise when it stops, the silence can grab you by both ears and the silence begins to speak to you. How can that be? Well, it happens. Maybe it happened for you when you lost someone or maybe someone moved out and left you. Maybe for some it’s the empty nest; the house has become so quiet you could hear the silence. It’s not
a bad time to let God reorder things
in your life, speak to you in a new way, about new activities and new systems of service and new opportunities to be of help to your children or your grandchildren or your friends or your church, all because of the sound of silence.

The bottom line is this — in whatever way and whatever method, God is not just trying to fill our lives with noise but wants us to be sensitive to hearing His voice, His care for us. Today if you hear His voice, harden not your hearts (Heb. 4:7).

Jim Futral
Executive Director-Treasurer