When God is Silent
Have you ever felt like God had gone silent? Perhaps He seemed so active in your life for a period, and then suddenly He was gone.
That’s where I am.
I find myself in a dry and barren land where it seems as if God has abandoned me. He has made promises to me, shown me visions of my future, planted hopes and dreams deep within me. He’s given me a glimpse of what He has planned, given me a small taste of the glorious future He is working for me. I have been able to taste and see that the Lord is good, and I want to experience these dreams in all of their fullness!
And then God went silent. It seems as if those hopes and dreams are dying while God has quit working. I find myself getting frustrated, wondering if God has forgotten His promises to me. Where did He go? Why am I left spinning my wheels? When is He going to show up again and fulfill His promises? Or, will He fulfill His promises?
Then, I find myself questioning the reality of those dreams. Maybe I have been mistaken. Maybe I didn’t really hear His voice. Maybe it’s just my selfish desires that are battling within me. Maybe I am hearing my own voice and not His. Maybe…
I attended Oklahoma Baptist University for my undergraduate degree, and we were required to take a survey of the Old and New Testaments as part of our degree program. As we traveled through the texts, we were able to understand the history of ancient civilizations. One piece of history that has stuck in my mind all of these years was the silence between the Old and New Testament—a 400 year period in which there were no new Biblical writings, no movement toward the fulfillment of earlier prophecies, no freedom for the Israelites.
Can you imagine being an Israelite in this time? Here they are, the chosen people of God, wasting away, waiting. They reflect on their glory days when they possessed the Promised Land, a land flowing with milk and honey. They remember the days when God went before them, utterly annihilating their enemies. They remember the goodness of God and how He cared for them with such kindness and compassion in the desert. They remember the promises of a Messiah who will come to rescue them.
Yet, God has gone silent.
The days of the kings leading them into battle, conquering foreign lands are over. Their enemies now scoff at them instead of cowering in fear. Where did the Almighty God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—the Lord of Heaven’s Armies—go? Why did He leave them? How do they reconcile His promises to them with the silence that is so deafening?
When God is silent, He is never still.
Recently I was listening to a sermon from New Spring Church while I was out running. I had subscribed to their podcast, and it just so happened that the first sermon I listened to was about God’s silence. The preacher was reviewing the 400 year period of silence between the Old and New Testaments. He talked about the events of history, and pointed out three major events that took place during this time-frame.
- Alexander the Great conquered the world and established a common language, the common Greek in which the New Testament was written.
- The Roman empire established a Roman peace, a treaty that allowed people to travel without restrictions.
- An improved transportation system was developed, which when combined with the Roman peace, allowed people to easily move around.
Even though God appeared silent, He was orchestrating events in history. You see, the establishment of a common language allowed much of the world to be impacted by the writings of the New Testament (which was written in the common Greek established by Alexander the Great). Without the Roman peace and improved transportation, the Gospel would not have been able to spread the way it did. You see, even though God was silent, He was not still. He was preparing the world for the next act, the introduction of the Messiah to the world. He was setting the stage for the birth of Christ and the spread of the gospel.
I bow before your holy Temple as I worship. I praise your name for your unfailing love and faithfulness; for your promises are backed by all the honor of your name. As soon as I pray, you answer me; you encourage me by giving me strength. The Lord will work out his plans for my life—for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever. Psalm 138:2-3, 8
Yes, I am in a period of silence concerning the promises God has made to me. I have seen a glimpse of His plans, and I am anxious for them to come to pass. But, it seems as if God made those promises—and then left! I find myself doubting, wondering why He would treat me this way. I wonder why He has left me high and dry.
The truth is, I know that God continues to work out His plans for me. He is still working things into me that must be in place before I can fully enjoy the future He has planned for me. He is trying to work things out of me—things like independence, pride, self-centeredness. He is trying to create in me an utter dependence on Him, an attitude that every moment of every day is focused on allowing Him to work through me. He is placing new hopes and dreams on my heart, things I never imagined as a part of my life. He is building my faith to an unbelievable new depth.
Despite getting frustrated on occasion, I know that God will never leave me, never forsake me (Hebrews 13:5). I am at a point where I simply have to trust God, to trust His character, to trust that He is working behind the scenes to prepare for the fulfillment of His promises. I am learning that He backs His promises with all the honor of His name. I am learning that He will work out His plans for my life—no matter what.
The question becomes, what do I do during the silence? One thing I must do is remember all of the promises He has made to me. When I begin to question whether I truly heard God’s voice, I reflect on the things He has shown me in the last year. I remember the moments while I was walking and He showed me correlations between my prayers and activities that were taking place—things I was completely unaware of at the time I prayed. I remember the scriptures that He showed me, reminding me that He has heard and answered my prayers (Daniel 9:23, Psalm 138:8). I remember the many scriptures He shows me about His promises always coming true (Joshua 23:14, Psalm 138:8, Proverbs 19:21). With every doubt, God shows up to reassure me of His plans and His presence.
I also remember and try to obey the last commands that I heard from God. There have been two very prominent and clear commands that God has given me in the last six months: 1. Focus on the spiritual growth of your children, and 2. Trust me—I’ve got this! Never before have I heard God speak so clearly and directly to me. With each day, I run back to those commands, begging God to show me how to complete those tasks. I plead with Him to give me wisdom and strength to do what He has commanded. I remind Him daily that I have been crucified with Christ and it is not me living this life—it is Him living through me (Galatians 2:20).
I love the story of Gideon and relate so well to it. God had called Gideon to rescue His people, but Gideon was not completely convinced he had heard God’s voice. So he asked God for a sign. God agreed. But, Gideon was still not certain so he asked for yet another sign. God agreed. Then, God pared Gideon’s army down to only 300 men! Gideon—who was struggling with faith anyway—had to be terrified!
During that night the Lord said to Gideon, “Get up, go down against the camp, because I am going to give it into your hands. If you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah and listen to what they are saying. Afterward, you will be encouraged to attack the camp.” So he and Purah his servant went down to the outposts of the camp. The Midianites, the Amalekites and all the other eastern peoples had settled in the valley, thick as locusts. Their camels could no more be counted than the sand on the seashore.
Gideon arrived just as a man was telling a friend his dream. “I had a dream,” he was saying. “A round loaf of barley bread came tumbling into the Midianite camp. It struck the tent with such force that the tent overturned and collapsed.”
His friend responded, “This can be nothing other than the sword of Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite. God has given the Midianites and the whole camp into his hands.”
When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he bowed down and worshiped. He returned to the camp of Israel and called out, “Get up! The Lord has given the Midianite camp into your hands.” (Judges 7:9-15)
I LOVE that God didn’t get angry at Gideon’s weak faith! Instead, He repeatedly sent comfort and encouragement, reassuring Gideon that everything would be OK! He has done the same for me. Every time my faith seems to be lagging, He sends me a scripture, a sermon, a quote—something that He knows will give me the strength to get through the day. What a kind and compassionate Father we serve!
Don’t mistake God’s patience for His absence. His timing is perfect, and His presence is constant. He’s always with you!
If God seems silent right now, remember that He is still there. He’s just working silently in the background to make sure everything is in place! One day, it will all make sense…