Word Fatigue

The other day in our small group, one of the women was describing the feeling of heaviness, helplessness, and lethargy she felt upon return from a year in Africa.  I said it sounded like she had experienced “compassion fatigue” – the sense of overload you have when you’ve seen too much suffering, heard too many stories of loss and spent time with people in despair, too many requests for more money.

Visiting a church recently, I felt like I experienced a similar phenomena.  “Word fatigue”.

Words, words, and more words…from a worship leader and a preacher and an announcement-maker and my soul cried out for silence in which I could just be present to a Holy God who is so much more than words.

Do you ever experience word fatigue?  Or noise fatigue?

I’m an extrovert, so I don’t always want silence, but I need it.

Silence to really meet Jesus.  Confess my mess and receive His loving embrace.

Silence to listen for that Holy whisper.

To experience God, not in the fire or the storm, but in the gentle quiet.

This desire for white space isn’t new.

Recently we were in D.C. visiting our daughters.  Every time we go we try to see something new, and this weekend included a visit to Lincoln’s “summer cottage”, a home he built just 3 miles north of the White House as a retreat from the stress, and noise, and people of the city.

Here’s the thing that was interesting to me.  The home itself didn’t prove to be a great retreat, but something else did.  When he was staying at the summer cottage, Lincoln rode his horse every day to the White House to work.  A 19th century commuter of sorts.

This ride was dangerous for him to do alone, but for a long time he insisted on it.  He knew he needed the thirty minute ride on horseback for silence and reflection.

When I read stuff like this my tendency is to think, “Yup, silence sure is important.  Hard stuff.”  But that’s where I often leave it.

If silence and space for God to speak is a value, why don’t I do the hard work of incorporating it into my daily rhythm?

This is one of the reasons why I admire Gary Haugen and the International Justice Mission. This value, the silence that bows before a Holy God, the silence that allows for listening, the silence that acknowledges His power and sovereignty is woven into the fabric of their day as an organization.  Employees arrive at 8:30 every morning for work, but the first half hour is a time of silence as an organization.  No emails, no chatting, no memos.

Just silence before a God who speaks His power into our everyday lives.

But silence doesn’t just come like presents at Christmas.  We don’t just drift into silence like we don’t drift into spiritual maturity.

Saying “yes” to silence will mean saying “no” to something else.  Turning a distraction off to be on to God

So what’s is your “horseback ride”?  

Is it a bike ride through silent streets or a commute without radio or podcast?  Leaving your phone at home?   Is it arriving to work early or sitting on your front steps at dusk?  If you’re a young mom, is it merely a bathroom break, or your husband watching the kids after dinner so you can take a walk?

How do you combat “word fatigue”?  I’d love to hear more ideas!!

What if you stopped right now and just breathed in the silence and the presence of God?

8 thoughts on “Word Fatigue

  1. This is SOOOO good! Silence is such a gift we give ourselves. When I drive into church, I’m usually by myself in a quiet car, praying. I am so grateful for that 20 minutes with God, to listen and pray. I try to get that ‘quiet’ in different ways through the day…even if it’s folding laundry. I’ll take what I can get. 🙂


  2. Thanks Laura, I loved it when I rode the bus to work. I had to just sit and think and journal or talk to God about whatever, including the people around me. Now I often just turn off the radio or podcast and just be quiet in the car with God. I really miss the journaling time, though.


    • Yes! Thanks for sharing your experience Jon! Journalling helps me to focus too. But for me (because I’m such a “do-er”), I feel like there are times when I need the discipline of just sitting in silence, being aware of God’s presence, closer than my breath, and not doing anything (maybe like your car time). That’s really hard for me.


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