One of the most difficult things for me in walking with God is His silence.
I want to hear from Him more than I do. I want Him to speak into my loneliness, to reveal how best to parent through this situation, to tell me why He’s allowing this suffering, to assure me it’s going to be okay, to tell me again He loves me.
God’s not silent because He doesn’t speak. He does. In a million ways. We know from Scripture He speaks. His voice can be like the thunder (Psalm 29:3) or like the quietest of winds (1 Kings 19:12), but He speaks.
A word from Him goes a long, long way.
Still, He is silent a lot.
This can feel like He doesn’t care, He’s not listening, or He isn’t even there. And that hurts.
It helps to acknowledge this. (He knows.) His saints throughout the ages have had the same experiences.
It helps, too, to notice that it’s not really the silence that hurts. What hurts are those faulty ideas—those ways of interpreting silence to mean He’s disinterested, distant, punishing, or unloving.
If not these, why is He silent when we want Him to speak?
Ironically, sometimes God seems silent because we’re not listening. We can be so much like the disciples who could not even wait with Him for one hour (see Mt. 26:40). We want Him to speak, but on our terms and in our timing. We want Him to be the God we demand rather than the God He is.
Other times He’s silent because He’s giving in another way. We forget that silence can actually be a great gift.
- The silence of a friend sitting next to you while you grieve.
- The silence of a spouse reaching for your hand.
- The silence of a mother nursing her baby.
- The silence of a wise counselor letting you process your pain.
- The silence of a confessor as you share what you’ve never told anyone.
These each express what’s called the “ministry of presence,” where words cannot touch what silent presence can. God gives this way, too.
Sometimes, He’s silent because He’s waiting for us to lay down our agendas and listen to what He has to say. We can get so cluttered even with good, “godly” thoughts, words, and activities, we leave no room for Him to speak. His silence in these times isn’t passive aggressive toe-tapping. His silence is to give room for the waters of our souls to settle down so we can listen. If we’ll but wait long enough.
Lastly, sometimes He’s silent because He’s listening.
Last week, I was in the middle of angrily arguing with someone when I realized the anger stirring in me wasn’t really about the topic arguing about. It actually had nothing to do with this person at all.
Similarly, we can relate with God and seek God about matters that are actually a diversion from the more important matters on our hearts. Or on His.
What if after I’ve prayed all I think I have to pray, there’s more I need to say? What if He’s silent because I still haven’t said what I really need to say?
In my life this “what I really need to say” has included things like…
- I distrust Him.
- I feel ashamed, angry, sad, or scared.
- I’m hiding sin.
- I want something.
- I miss Him.
Even though we may be distracted from the core matters of our lives, God doesn’t take the same bait we do. Our diversions, no matter how heartfelt, do not occupy His attention the way they do ours.
It is because of a strong heart not a calloused one that Christ will not bend His knee to the tyranny of the urgent, our time demands, or our interpretations of His silence.
Yes, He cares for all our concerns. He comes quickly to tend to them. But in His mercy, He will not be ruled by them.
If you are walking through a season of silence, ask Him and trusted others to help you. You are in good company.
Question: Why else do you think God remains silent sometimes? What else helps you walk through seasons of silence?
Thank you. His silence is like His majesty but not unapprochable just who He is. Comforting because He is bigger than I am or my issues but still very much involved. Praise the Lord!
Lord, I do believe. Help me in my unbelief. God’s silence helps me grow in my struggle to believe. “Without struggle, there is no progress.” Frederick Douglas
What an amazing new thought, to me, that God is silent because he is listening. It makes me think of sessions with a counselor or good friend who is patiently waiting for me to get my thoughts out without rushing me at all. The more important and deeper the place I have to share from, the more that patient, loving waiting is helpful and meaningful. Usually I am going to a place of pain in situations like that. Their patient waiting–not running away, or hiding behind spoken words–is the kind of love that is willing to embrace someone else’s pain. Like our Savior on the cross. Thank you, once again, Josh.
This blog to us he’s my heart. I have been listening to a song called “The Silence of God”. While I know in my heart that He is always there, His silence can drive me crazy, cause me to wonder if all I believe is really a hoax. You have reminded me that God will not bend His knee to me and meet me on my timetable. I want to be in His will, on His timetable, addressing the things He has in mind. There is a strange but welcome peace to be found in the silence of this God Who is the Source of all my peace. Thank you, Josh.