Have you ever experienced God’s silence?
I’m guessing you have, unless your prayers have never gone deeper than those of a college freshman.
“Dear, God, I know I haven’t studied at all and I stayed up all night playing Xbox Live, but I would really appreciate an ‘A’ on this quiz! If I pass this class, I will go to the mission field!”
Actually, I bet that guy experienced a lot of God’s silence, too!
When God really does go silent, it can be one of the most stressful, painful times in our lives! Why is it that God is never silent when things are going really well? When the bills are paid, we have a stocked fridge, and our job is going well, we never seem to be concerned with how much God is talking to us or answering our prayers. I mean, things are good! Of course He is answering our prayers, right!
But when that job opportunity disappears, and I don’t know how I’m going to provide for my family next month? Then I want God to show up right here and now! I want answers. I want solutions. Yet, it is in these times- when our daughter is in the hospital, our car was broken into and our debit card was stolen, or our dad passes away- that God seems to go quiet.
Why is that?
I have no idea. None of us do. Sure, we can remind people that God is always with us, but that doesn’t always help at that moment. As a matter of fact, that can cause anger and resentment towards God. “Well then, if He is here with me, why won’t He answer and give me some Hope!”
We don’t have those answers. But maybe there are some things we can do. As easy as it would be to just sit back and do nothing until we see a flash of light in the sky, I’m convinced that this is rarely the solution. And even though we may want to crawl into bed for a week, you guessed it. Not the answer, either.
So, what can we do? Do we just have to sit and wait?
That is what a lot of Christian advice sounds like. “Stop. Wait on God. Be ready for Him to speak to you. When the time comes, you’ll know!”
But think about this: First, how many people in the Bible (that did amazing things in God’s name!) actually waited on God? Very few! Second, according to Barna research, 60% of Christians have no idea what God’s will is for their lives. So, is that who you want to take advice from? I would put money down in Vegas that the people so concerned with waiting on God are the same exact people that don’t know what God wants them to do with their lives.
Yes, there are times we need to wait on God. But I can guarantee you there are a lot more times where we should DO something. How can I be sure? Because that is what Abraham, David, Moses, and Paul did. They acted, even when they didn’t have a clear direction.
So, here are three things we can do when God appears to go silent.
3 Things to do when God goes silent
1. Keep spending time with Him.
Yes, I know this sounds like a “Sunday School answer.” (I have a theory that when you were a kid in Sunday school, if you weren’t paying attention, and the teacher asked a question, you could say one of three answers- God, Jesus, or the Bible- and answer 98% of the questions correctly. Yes, you may be thinking the Holy Spirit should be in the list, but seriously, unless you went to a Pentecostal church, who else talks about the Spirit!)
When God is silent, one of the hardest things to do is to try and spend more time with Him. I get it. If you’re hurting or confused, it’s a tough thing to sit down, open up a Bible, and pray. But this may be exactly the thing that you need to do. In the Bible, our relationship with God is compared to being married. Jesus is the groom and we, His Church, are the bride. If you’re married, then you understand the importance of communication. When one person is silent, what is the worse thing you could do? Go silent, too! No, you don’t want to annoy your wife until she decides to talk. But quitting all communication and walking out the door never fixes things. Keep trying. Keep talking. Keep the lines of communication open.
Our relationship with God is just that. A relationship. Keeping the lines of communication open with Him is vitally important, as well.
2. “Go” until you get a “No”
I think I heard Erwin McManus say this first, but I am sure this phrase has been around for a long time. I know we want to hear from God. I know we want answers and direction in life. Here’s the thing. God gave us an entire Bible with instructions for life. We may not know the exact thing we need to do for this exact situation. But we can figure out over a hundred things we could do, anyway.
I am convinced that God rewards action.
Go get in a boat. Sit in the middle of the ocean. Now, turn the steering wheel as far as you can to the right. Now the left. Was it a crazy rider? No! Why? Because the boat wasn’t moving. And you can’t steer a boat that is sitting still. But give it some throttle and you can steer that boat wherever you want it to go. Our faith is the same. God will steer those that are already taking action.
Not sure what to do next? Volunteer at your church. Serve the poor at a local shelter. Tithe, even when it doesn’t make sense. Listen to sermon podcasts. Do. Something. Don’t worry. God will stop you before you do anything He isn’t pleased with. You will get the “No” if you need the no. Until then… Go.
God rewards action.
3. Seek wise counsel
“For by wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory.” -Proverbs 24:6 (ESV)
Does life ever feel like a war? Of course it does! But you are not an army of one. So, wage your war. But don’t do it alone. In Proverbs, verse after verse after verse teach us to seek wife counsel. And you know who wrote most of those verses? Only the wisest man on the planet, Solomon! So, if the wisest man that ever lived needed wise counsel, then what should that say to us?
Feeling lost? Find an older mentor to guide you. Feeling frustrated? Seek out a true friend that will give you some much needed perspective. Feeling depressed? You may need to seek out a professional counselor to get through these tough times. (Why do so many Christians act like professional counseling is taking away from our faith in God? That’s just plain stupid. Need help? Get help!)
We are not alone in this. It may feel that way. This has, honestly, been one of my greatest struggles. I have felt, many times, as though I had to step up and be the one to make a decision. Many times, I made my choice too quickly, thinking I had all the information I needed to make a wise choice.
Men, seek out an older man to give you advice. Women, seek out an older woman that can teach you the principles she has learned over the years. Call someone that is a stage or two ahead of you in life and offer to buy their lunch. You may be surprised by what you get in return!
When God goes silent, we can get upset, frustrated, and even feel defeated. But He is putting you through this for a reason. He knows you will make it. He knows you have what it takes. He simply wants you to depend on Him. Trust Him. Lean into your relationship with Him.
And while you are waiting for the silence to break, I encourage you to spend time with God, go until you get a no, and seek wise counsel.
Do these three, and you will be ready to act when God decides to speak!