When God is Silent
Recently, some friends and I were pondering the various ways in which God speaks to us. We discussed how we’ve heard him speak through the Bible (2 Tim 3:16-17), through other people (Acts 9:10-19), through dreams (Genesis 40), through nature (Psalm 19), through the Holy Spirit (John 14:26), and countless other means. We agreed that he knows our personal communication styles and he talks to us in ways we understand.
When I first came into relationship with God, I primarily heard his voice in two ways. Every time I opened my Bible, the truths seemed to jump off the page. It was as if the words were written just for me. In a time when I struggled with feeling like all authority figures were punitive and harsh, God led me to a verse that revealed he is different. He is a leader and Father who is “slow to anger, abounding in love” (Psalm 103:8). This helped me understand his character and trust Him. I also felt like God would often give me pictures to illustrate truths he wanted to communicate. One time when I was trying to make an important decision, I found myself paralyzed by fear of making the wrong choice. As I prayed, I saw a parked car by the side of the road. I felt like God said to me, “It’s easier to steer a moving vehicle than one that is parked. Don’t be afraid to move forward. I am perfectly capable of redirecting you if you make a wrong turn.” Hearing God’s voice in these ways was so exciting to me! I loved the way our relationship began.
But then one day God stopped speaking. I read my Bible and found it dry and monotonous. I no longer received colorful visions and dreams with pearls of wisdom attached. I prayed and didn’t hear any replies. I started to feel abandoned. Where was God? Why was he giving me the cold shoulder? Did I do something wrong? Was he mad at me? He was silent for a long time. After a while, I questioned if my mind had conjured up those previous encounters on some sort of spiritual high. Had God ever really spoken to me? Was God even real? The longer I was seemingly ignored by God, the more confused and bitter I became toward Him.
During this season of angst, I visited my dear friend Anna. While we were together, I reveled in the beautiful way our relationship had changed over the years. When we first met, there was pressure to make small talk and fill empty spaces in conversation. Now that we had known each other for a long time, I found comfort in simply being present with her. We sat on her couch with our coffee in contemplation for hours that day, and I treasured the fact that no words were necessary. She knew me, she loved me, I was not alone, and that was abundantly sufficient.
Then it struck me. Perhaps God was not mad. Perhaps he was not ignoring me. Perhaps his silence meant the exact opposite of what I had assumed for so many months. Perhaps, like my friend Anna, God and I had simply reached a new level of maturity in our relationship. Suddenly, the quiet was no longer a chasm between us. Instead, I found solace in the realization that no words were necessary. I was convinced, and I remain convinced, that when God is silent I can rest in what I know to be true. He knows me, he loves me, I am not alone, and that is abundantly sufficient.
As I seek to know his voice, I also cherish the sacredness of his silence. For he is revealed in both, as a refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of need (Psalm 46:1).