Serenity is a word we use to describe a quietness that creates calm within the soul. But what about those times when quiet creates anxiety?
What do I do when God seems silent? Is there anything I can do, or am I simply banished to isolation from His voice? And is His silence accompanied by His deafness? Are there times in which He is justified to not hear me, and not speak?
Someone has suggested that if it seems as though God is distant it is because you/I have moved away from Him. Perhaps this is true, but many souls have entered those soundproof rooms, screaming their lungs out, clawing their way in God’s direction, and seem unable to draw His attention.
Is God ever so calloused that He simply has had enough of our whining? Does God need a break from mankind?
When the silence of God is deafening, I would suggest that we have several options. Keep in mind that none of these are call buttons, summoning Him to our side. They are, instead, correctional perspectives.
Remember this: God has already spoken. You probably have a dozen or more versions of God’s letter in your home. The Bible is His voice in print. It is not everything He spoke or speaks, but it is the stuff He wants no one to miss. So don’t miss it. Begin with the clear and primary utterance of God.
I have caught myself in this error so many times, I am embarrassed to admit it. I wander into these seasons of seeking some fresh word from Him, and eventually He gently reminds me that He has already spoken a lot of things to which I am not paying very close attention. When it seems as though God has grown quiet, I must be willing to hear even more deeply what He has already spoken. Oftentimes the silence is due to my deafness to what He has been saying for centuries. I must be willing to return to the ancient words, and hear them fresh. I have yet to completely own so much of what He has spoken.
This is why consistent and thorough reading of the Bible is so important for the Jesus follower. Until I have chewed long on the things that God finds most important, He may not find it necessary to go further in the conversation.
Also consider this: He continues to speak in other languages. Yep, God speaks in other tongues. I’m not referring to human languages, but the language of creation, the words of Christian friends, the “coincidences of circumstances,” and the direction of the Holy Spirit.
We have to be careful here.
I am NOT saying that creation/Christian friends/circumstances possess the nature of deity.
I am NOT saying that whatever you see in creation, or whatever your Christian friends say, or whatever circumstances you experience are open to your interpretation as a directive from God.
I am NOT saying that any of these secondary “voices” from God replace Scripture.
I am NOT saying that the Spirit’s guidance is a simple matter of going with your instincts, since you are a Christian.
Let’s see if I can articulate what I AM saying.
Consider creation first. The marvel of what God has done, and what God is doing, is a reverberation of His voice. It is not the lyric, but it is the melody. It reminds us of the beauty of the Creator, His vastness, His intimacy, His pleasure in blessing us with sensual delights and childlike joy.
The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
– Psalm 19:1-4
For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
– Romans 1:20
Created things may not supply personal revelation, but as I examine the wonders of God’s design, I learn more about the Designer. He “speaks” through His creative powers. When I “listen” by seeing/hearing/tasting/smelling/touching, I am assured concerning God’s character – His wisdom and care, His complexity and simplicity, His power and His imagination.
Consider the secondary voice of Christian friends. Beware of those who speak contrary to Scripture, but be encouraged by those who reinforce the power of Biblical counsel. Stay close to those whose lives have proven an attentive ear to the Word of God.
Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise,
but the companion of fools will suffer harm.
– Proverbs 13:20
Despite the immense reservoir of my own wisdom (insert an eye roll), I can learn from others as life rubs up against life. The counsel of others who have walked where I have not walked, and who have walked in the past where I am walking now provides a encyclopedia of wisdom. As I step into godly webs of relationships, I am connecting my soul to an almost unlimited resource, for the lives of the many have been cross-pollinated by the lives of many unseen. Woven into the tapestry of community is the influence of lives long-gone-but-not-forgotten, the wisdom of authors read, and the insights of souls polished by shared life, bringing together many voices which can erase the impotent silence.
Granted, not every voice, even from the wisest of friends, is a sure thing, but there will often be far more gold than dross. And as I draw closer to those speaking into my life, the loyalty and love undergirding the relationship assure that I am receiving another’s best words, and most fervent prayers as I struggle through difficult, silent times.
In regard to the experiences of life, these are invaluable lab sessions for discovering new depths of what God has already said. In fact, my greatest insights will emerge from each failure. Makes you want to go out and fall flat on your face, doesn’t it?
Well, maybe not, but it provides fresh perspective. Lurking in the shadows of the blinding failures are lessons which can often be gained nowhere else. Didn’t some wise ancient voices say as much?
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
– James 1:2-4
we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame
– Romans 5:3-5a
Could it be that this very interlude of silence is the classroom itself, pressing me to “listen” more closely to what God is doing all around me?
And consider the work of the Spirit, speaking into life. Despite my assumption that God is muzzled, the promise is sure: He will never leave or forsake me. His Spirit abides in me, and is at work teaching me, shaping me, maturing me.
Hearing the Spirit is difficult at times because I have ears of flesh. I am stubborn. I am distracted. I am prone to seek other voices. My wife will attest to all these things. But as I couple hearing the Word with yielding to the Spirit’s work in me, I become better able to pay attention as He whispers His guidance. The tools of Bible and prayer are essential accessories to hearing God’s Spirit accurately.
The seasons of silence come more often than I want to admit. And often it is because I have closed my ears. Again and again Jesus brought mind-blowing truth to the masses, and He constantly added, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Translation: Get your fingers out of your ears, and pay attention!
The posture of listening during the silent times can be as uncomfortable as some of those yoga poses, which no human being should be able to do (that is why so many of them are named after animals – but that is another post…). Still, in the agonizing quiet, the whisper of God will come. Sometimes God is just saving His words until we are ready to hear. In the meantime, consider this closing thought…
Even when the silence is deafening, resist the urge to make hearing God an idol. When all is said and done, isn’t God’s promised presence enough? Must we always have God’s voice in addition to his presence? Sometimes the best of friends don’t speak at all, but simply sit in silence, enjoying just being together.
Father, I will await you in the noise, the whisper, and the silence. Thank you for your promised presence. And give me ears to hear when and what You speak.