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When God Seems Silent

October 22, 2020
These days of pandemic seem to have been days of silence for many. I have been reflecting on that silence some. In fact, things are generally quieter everywhere. I live on a college campus with about 500 others living within a couple of blocks of me, and things are very quiet. Some ornithologists are reporting that in major cities, there is such quiet that even the local birds are changing their songs

I have also reflected on God’s silence. Some have felt our God has been silent during this time as well. I have thought about what our sense of God’s silence might mean. I do not know the mind of the Lord in all things, though He lets us know some things through His Word. Think about times in the Bible when God seemed silent. What might those in the stories be thinking?

  • Abraham experienced long times of silence between ages 75 and 100 with only a few visits from the Lord. 
  • Joseph may have experienced God’s silence as he served Potiphar and while in an Egyptian prison.
  • Moses and Elijah waited at times in God’s silence.
  • I wonder if the Father was silent when Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
  • I wonder if the disciples heard the deafening roar of God’s silence for three days between the cross and the resurrection.
  • I wonder if Peter felt the silence between his denials of Jesus and his restoration by the risen Christ in John 21. That fishing trip was probably very quiet. 
  • I wonder about the silent periods in the Revelation. 

You have probably experienced a time when you wanted God to speak but He did not seem to do so. What can God’s seeming silence mean to us?

First, I need to evaluate the sense of silence I have from God. Am I so afraid of stillness that I want God to interrupt the silence because I hate the silence? Do I think of His voice as a noise which distracts me from my routines or my anxiety? If this is the case, maybe God is using the silence to help you still yourself. “But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.” (Psalm 131:2 ESV)

Second, God may be using His seeming silence to train your spiritual ears to hear Him better.  When my boys were little and terribly distraught, I would pick them up and whisper to them. A whisper got their attention and calmed them far better than my shouting at them. God worked on Elijah’s listening skills in 1 Kings 11:11-12. Elijah heard the wind, the earthquake, and the fire, but then came the low whisper. There are times when the Lion of Judah roars, but there are times when He whispers. 

Third, God hears. God listens. And like any good listener, He holds His words until the one speaking is finished. I am convinced in my own experiences that God has been silent so that I would finish what I needed to say to Him. He was silent during my surface prayers of “forgive my sins” and “bless the missionaries.” He knew there was more, and deep inside, there was more. Like a Wonderful Counselor, He simply wanted, in silence, for me to plumb the depths of my soul, to name my deepest hurts and fears, to speak to Him what I often refused to even admit that I thought. He truly desires that we humble ourselves and cast all our cares on Him (1 Peter 5:6-7). Did you catch that – all our cares?  

Are you experiencing times of silence? Can you reorient the times of God’s silence to see them as times for you to grow your faith, to explore your own heart, and to develop a deeper level of talking with God? God’s silences are never about harming us but pulling us closer to Him.

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