We are often uncomfortable with silence, either with other people or with God. It can be difficult when we hear so much of God speaking to us (and I firmly believe He does!) and then seem to enter a season of silence, but our responses to silence matter enormously.
Our first response to God’s silence seems often to be to blame ourselves. ‘If you can’t hear God, you’re not listening hard enough. If you feel God’s not close to you right now, there’s only one person who’s moved, and it’s not God.’ These responses put the blame on us and so we tend to redouble all our efforts (in praying, reading the Bible, fasting and seeking God), never quite understanding that sometimes God is One who hides Himself (Is 45:15) and who may choose silence as a way of drawing us closer. Our relationship is based on mercy and grace, not on striving and legalism.
Sometimes we sulk when God is silent, reasoning that if God’s not going to bother talking to us, why should we bother talking to Him? We start bargaining with God, trading requests with Him and treating Him like He is a magician or some Father Christmas character whose only role in life is to please us. Such a response again shows our immaturity. God may use silence at times to reveal our immaturity to us, to wean us from what is visible and tangible and audible so that we can learn to trust Him with everything (see Ps 131:2).
A third response is to lower our expectations and simply stop expecting God to speak to us at all. Silence becomes the norm, and so we take refuge in our own activities and try to live out lives of faith without any faith at all, simply living a life of works.
None of these responses adequately helps us. We have to learn to be content with mystery and with understanding that silence is a season of the soul. As we wait for God to speak to us again, to come with words of encouragement, solace and hope, we remind ourselves that:
- God will not be silent for ever
- God’s grace is sufficient for us in every situation and every season (2 Cor 12:9)
- He calls us to trust more, not less
- Deprivation draws out desire: we don’t really appreciate something until we don’t have it! By being silent, God actually makes His speech even more precious to us.
- Perception is not the same as fact. We may feel abandoned and forsaken by God, but the truth is He never leaves us or forsakes us. (Heb 13:5)
- God is shaping us for eternity, and we learn that even in heaven, there was silence for half an hour! (Rev 8:1) This season of silence may seem like an eternity to us, but we can trust God that this too will pass and we will once again have the pleasure of hearing His voice speaking comfort and solace to our souls.