When God is Silent

:: 5 Ways to Hold On When You Can’t Hear God’s Voice ::

For a good while now, my conversations with God have been one-sided. I talk… and then there’s silence. I ask… and perceive no response. I wait……  and still there is no sense of His nearness.  This is not normal for me and God. I feel forgotten, alone, defective. Hope wanes. The light of my countenance dulls. An extended “silent treatment” has afforded plenty of time to try a few new-to-me “are you there, God?” posturings.

Spending many years in a presence-based church culture has perhaps increased my sense of loneliness.  I have known His presence and I long for another tangible experience of His realness and bigness and love for me. So many times He has walked into the room and overwhelmed my senses with His glory. I have tasted and seen, and I know He is good.

And now, I cannot taste; I cannot see. So do I still believe He is good?

I write this in the silence still, not knowing if I’m walking this out well. But I do have a growing suspicion that God is doing something right here in the middle of this wilderness, that He is still good and He still loves me.  So I offer these thoughts to you as a fellow journeyman.  

{A Note: Two practices are always best – worship and reading the Word.  A sacrifice of praise is real and honored by God. Listening for His infallible voice in the Bible is clearly how He speaks to all generations.  These primary practices have been well-explained by so many, I hesitate to expound further. I worship and read scripture and still find myself in desolation, but that won’t stop me from worshipping and meditating on the Word, because I believe it doesn’t return void.}

 

1. Don’t be offended

Mostly in the silence, I grow resentful.

What is wrong with me? Is God upset with me, is He not pleased? Does He draw near only to pull away again? What is wrong with God? Is He in a bad mood? Has he forgotten, does He not care about me?

Accusation, resentment, and a victim mentality thrive within this perspective. I think this is the enemy’s easiest strategy to mess with our hearts and our perception of God. Accusation drives a wedge between me and God, when God’s desire is unconditional acceptance. A change of perspective can disarm the Accuser more easily than one might think. Utilizing my own will, I can choose to adjust my heart posture away from resentment, victimization, and conditionalism to a place of rest and hope. How?

I kind of stopped taking it personally.

I know, it sounds weird, but that’s the best way I can describe it. It washes away all those questions and creates room in my heart. It is quite possible there is nothing wrong with me and there is nothing wrong with God and it’s no one’s fault.  Maybe it just is what it is, and everything isn’t about me.

This perspective change shifts the tone of the silence. It is no longer a threat or sentence. In this empty place, hope has a chance to grow.

We can choose to lay down offense and receive the invitation.

Some questions to ponder: What season are you in? And if God knows this, what is His invitation to you? Who could he be to you right now that He could not be in any other season? What might He be after in your life? How could the silence be a gift, asking you to lay down the old ways you knew God and leading you into something new?

 

2. Remember the Power of Words

I believe words are powerful — especially God’s —  thus the pickle I’m in! God created me in His image and gave me the power of words, too. What we speak over our own lives can limit, destroy, delay, enliven, free. So often I found myself saying on the inside and out loud,   I can’t hear God,  or  God isn’t speaking to me.

Something in me began to prick when those words passed my lips. I remembered James 2, and Luke 1, when Gabriel announced John the Baptist’s conception to Zechariah. Zechariah spoke negatively against God’s promise, and Gabriel shut his mouth. God knew the power of words, and was determined that nothing would stop John the Baptist from being born at exactly the right time. This implies that Zechariah’s words could have messed up the whole thing!

I realized that my words could be putting a cap on what God is doing, and possibly even creating the circumstance I perceived. Now I am becoming slower to name situations I don’t understand.

I stopped saying things like, I can’t hear God; God isn’t speaking to me; I’m in a desert season.  Because what if that’s not at all what is happening? Who am I to say what God is or isn’t doing? How is it my senses are so perfect?

I’m not hearing God right now in the ways I used to  is perhaps a more accurate description, and it gives God (and me!) the benefit of the doubt. When the old thought comes up, I am quick to replace it with this phrase. This small change  has made a huge difference.

3. Hold the Space

Holding the space means this: sitting in the silence and not filling it.

If I want God to speak to me, if I believe He will again one day, shouldn’t I continue to give Him the opportunity to do so?  Even when the quiet is full of what is missing, don’t I still believe He will speak again one day? How many times have I rushed to fill the space instead of insisting on holding it open and empty? How many times have I blamed Him for not speaking when I have not given Him the space to do so?

Holding the space is waiting expectantly, yes… and more. What if I come to God not because I am wanting an answer, encouragement, or direction… What if I come to Him just to BE with Him? Even if I can’t sense Him, the truth is, HE IS HERE. He is everywhere. He never leaves. I remind myself of the nature of God and make the hard choice to rest in that truth. After a while, it’s refreshing to not be asking Him for something all the time. Instead I have the freedom to just be.

In a world of doing, holding the space is being.

Holding the space is an act of trust: God is in the midst of her; she will not be moved. 

It also occurs to me: I can take His lead and present myself before Him with no words, just as He presents Himself to me with no words. What a sacred thing to do!

Moments of intentional silence before God then become my choice, and I am no longer a victim. Silence is not the enemy. In fact… silence is my friend. I choose the stillness and embrace it, let it minister to me, mold me, purify me, heal me.

Silence is a place of great power and healing.

Silence is God’s lap.

-Rachel Naomi Remen

The brain needs silence. The body needs stillness. Without it, I cannot live. Perhaps God sees how close I am to physical, mental, and spiritual disrepair and the silence is His best for me, for my own health and wellbeing. Again, this changes everything. Despite life’s encroachments, I shall hold the space. Even if He never speaks to me again, it is a healthy practice.

 

4. Strengthen Weaker Senses

The truth is, God is always communicating with us. And fortunately He has many more languages than English. Perhaps an invitation is to learn to listen in new languages; to strengthen connection with God through less-developed senses. To diversify the communication portfolio. 

He speaks in ways we do not understand. As a newlywed, God withdrew much of His felt presence from me. I later realized it was His intention to create the space to cling to my husband and learn to receive the love of God through him. Time after time, Jay has literally been Jesus to me. In speaking with other married women, they too had a silent season as a newlywed. (How amazing that He is confident enough in His love to step back!) Perhaps, once again, He withdraws Himself in order to show Himself more fully.

He speaks through others. A meaningful touch, a considerate word, a hopeful song, a faithful presence of family or friend are extensions of God’s communication. The little things matter. If I discount them, I am discounting what He is trying to give me. (And am I too proud to receive? Do my daughter’s bedtime songs not sing of God’s heart for me?)

He speaks through the slightest internal nudges and thoughts. So many times I hear God and don’t even realize it. Now is a good time to tune in more carefully to the nuances of His communication styles. Perhaps He IS speaking, and I AM hearing, and my life has been too loud and rushed to notice, and God is kind enough to go very quiet so that I will turn down the volume on the rest of my life in desperation.

Most of all for me, He communicates  through nature. Red-winged blackbird darting across the pond. Bunny frozen in morning grass. Purple sky at end of day. Constellations declaring His glory, with all that empty, desolate silence as their backdrop.  (Perhaps the dark isn’t so bad after all…) The call of a bird is hearing His song; the touch of summer rain on my shoulders is feeling His blessing; the sight of minnows darting along a streambed is seeing His joy.

Being in nature is, in essence, being in God’s presence.

We have a multi-dimensional, subtle, mysterious, eternal, omnipresent God. Why would he limit Himself to speak only in words made by man, in mere sentences? Why would I require Him to reduce Himself to my vocabulary? I realize this truth and bow low and the whole world opens up before me as a direct line to The Creator.

 

5. Pursue Healing

It is not always true that a hard season is because of an unresolved wounding, but it can be true. I hesitate to mention this one because it’s raw and often misconstrued.  “God is not speaking because you have unresolved sin in your life” has generally not been helpful to me. David says it well: “You have searched me and known me… Search my heart, O God, and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.” (Psalm 139) I think God really loves this prayer and loves to answer it for us. He sees, He knows, He loves, He wants to see our hearts made whole. 

Pursing emotional, mental and spiritual healing begins by becoming aware of my initial reaction to God’s silence: I did something wrong; God doesn’t like me; I don’t deserve it; God is being mean to me.  Why would this be my first reaction? This is a trigger! It’s a flag signalling something deeper.

Is there any place in my heart that is not willing to trust Him fully? Am I holding something against Him? Is there an injustice I cannot get past? A deep wound that has discolored my hope and left me unconvinced of His complete goodness? Do I see God as a punisher, a carrot-and-stick sovereign? Do I think my actions cause Him to withhold His love or be less pleased with me? Is guilt or shame running the show? Do I believe I am unworthy of being a child of God? Do I not fully trust Him?

If I’m really honest? Yes. Yes to all of the above. I’ve got some issues to work through. Unbelief has dulled my senses. Unfortunately, I am finding this work the most difficult and most effective way to get to the other side of this particular wilderness season. It gets worse before it gets better.

Perhaps this is the reason for the silence? Perhaps He is after this very place in my heart, and having tried and failed at other ways to get my attention, God introduces the gift of silence deep inside me. The nothingness echoes and shines a spotlight, exposing the hurtful ways in me, forcing the lies out of hiding.  

Lies like to yell; the Truth likes to whisper. 

If this is true, His silence and the invitation therein is His VERY BEST for me! It is pure mercy. He longs for me to be healed and made whole, to know more deeply and more fully that He is good, and He loves me, and I can freely receive His love. Sometimes more drastic measures must be taken so that we are willing to do the hard work of becoming more whole. He is here with me tearing out the lies and setting a firmer foundation.

Remember this, friends: His mercy is in relentless pursuit of my heart and yours. Perhaps He is not far, but closer than ever.

When God is Silent…

Maybe silence is not a punishment, but a gift.

 

4 thoughts on “When God is Silent

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