Our faith and living as a Christian are the greatest gifts in life. But as we all know, being a follower of Jesus does not make for an easy life free from suffering and pain. When we are faced with moments of despair, doubt and anxiety, we can wonder if God seems to be silent in the face of our prayers and our tears.
Like Job, we cry out to God and are met with deafening silence. We may exclaim like the Psalmists, “But I cry to you for help, Lord; in the morning, my prayer comes before you. ‘Why, Lord, do you reject me and hide your face from me?’” (Psalm 88:13-14). Through our heartache, we wonder why the Lord seems to be hiding from us and why we cannot feel his comfort and love.
Recently, Ruth, who is a dear friend of mine, shared her sadness at God’s apparent silence during a very trying time in her life. “I don’t know if I can hear the voice of God anymore,” she said. “I feel that I’ve been walking a lonely road for so long now and even though I set aside time to pray, I don’t hear God speaking to me anymore.
“I feel lonely and abandoned,” she tearfully shared.
Through the storms in our life, we have all felt times when we wonder if God has forgotten us. While on some level we know that God is love and that he loves each one of us, when we do not hear him speaking to us, we begin to doubt and question ourselves and our relationship with God. We find this silence frustrating and painful.
So what can we do? Here are my four suggestions:
In the Book of Kings, Elijah was told to stand at Mount Horeb to wait for the Lord to pass by. A great wind blew, followed by a mighty earthquake and a great fire. Elijah looked for God in the great wind, the earthquake and the fire. But the Lord was not in any of them. Lastly, there was vast silence. As Elijah stood in the silence the voice whispered, “What are you doing here Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:11-13). There is a great lesson for us in this. Listen not to ask for or to respond to, but just listen. Listen at a deep level. Listen for the whisper of the Lord and dwell in that silence.
Through the silence, maintain a balance between silence and talking to God. Even when it feels hard, especially on days when it is hard, sincerely tell God that you trust him and ask him to heal any unbelief that you have in your heart. Let God speak to you through the Scriptures and draw comfort from his word. Reach out and tell someone that you’re struggling with silence.
Let God be God
God is Lord of all, Lord of all the earth, of all the chatter and, yes, Lord of all silence! Remember that God is still present in the silence. Allowing this aspect of God’s silence to wash over us may be a learning moment. Let God be God in his silence.
Know that he loves you
Each trial that we go through is an opportunity for us to grow closer to Christ, to grow deeper in faith and to grow closer to offers. Know that even in the silence, he is with you and loves you. Recognize who the Lord sends into your life to show you love.
One of the silver linings of God’s silence is to highlight for us just how completely and utterly dependent we are on him. When Ruth told me how difficult God’s silence was for her, I reminded her of how beautiful her desire is for God to be present in her life. The world may tell us that we should avoid silence at all costs, but there is true value in the silence, even if we cannot see it at the time. Seeds grow in the silence and darkness of the earth. They are not buried in darkness; rather they are planted to grow into the light and so, too, are we. Even though we cannot always see it, the seed of silence will bloom in love.
Stanz is director of Discipleship and Leadership Development for the Diocese of Green Bay and author of the book “Developing Disciples of Christ.”