When God Seems Silent
I remember it like it was yesterday. I was sitting in my dorm room freshman year of college feeling alone on a Sunday afternoon. Several of my friends had gone home for the weekend, and I felt like the only person on campus.
A few hours passed with Netflix and Diet Dr. Pepper. I longed for real companionship. Tim Riggins in “Friday Night Lights” just wasn’t cutting it.
I stopped to pray about my lonely heart, asking God to provide the right man at the right time. It was a prayer I was all too familiar with, but it was also a prayer that seemed to elicit no response.
Even though I had witnessed God’s provision in directing me to the right college, introducing me to encouraging friends, and allowing me to find an enjoyable part-time job, I still doubted His ability to provide a boyfriend – let alone a spouse.
It felt like in that area of my life, God was simply silent. This silence seemed to last for several years, and I had to learn to continually surrender my singleness and loneliness.
What do we do when God seems silent?
How do we proceed when we can’t hear His voice or feel His presence?
It’s scary when it seems that God is distant. We pray and plead. We leave our desires at His feet. We wait and live in the meantime. Still, it’s easy to become discouraged.
The benefit of living today instead of in Old Testament times is that we have a Helper, the Holy Spirit, who is always with us. As believers today, we have the actual presence of God with us at all times.
While this is a comfort, it doesn’t mean that we can always discern the Holy Spirit’s guidance in our lives. We might not regularly feel His presence or acknowledge His direction.
However, the more time we spend in God’s Word, the easier it is to recognize His plan for us.
The reason why the Holy Spirit is such a gift is that there was a very real time when God was completely silent. Many generations did not experience the unwavering presence of God because people didn’t have the comforting presence of the Holy Spirit. They had to wait for God’s prophetic voice.
Silence was stiffening.
One of the longest times of silence was between the Old and New Testament. In Malachi, God spoke one final direction and then was silent for some 400 years – enough for multiple generations to be born and die without God’s audible voice.
400 years is frightening.
Were the people left alone to just do whatever they wanted? No.
You see, God’s final voice before 400 years of silence was the call to remember all of the instructions that He had previously given. He wasn’t going to remove His voice without sufficiently providing for His people.
“Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel” (Malachi 4:4).
Even when God was absolutely silent, He had still given the people of Israel enough of His wisdom through Moses to learn and obey. He tells them to simply remember all that He has already said. If the people could remember all that God had said, they would have more than enough.
When God feels silent in our lives, we need to press into His Word. It is there that He has already shared so much of His wisdom. It is there that we find direction.
No, the Bible might not say “marry this person” or “quit this job” or “move to a new city.” But, the Bible gives us instructions for relationships, information on what constitutes good work, and insight on how to be effective wherever you live.
The more time we spend learning what God has to say about life, the more we can live in the peace of His principles.
During times of loneliness, If I would have turned on Netflix less and opened my Bible more, I might not have feared so much when my plans weren’t coming to fruition.
I would have remembered all of the many times God expresses His faithfulness and love to His children. I would have encountered verses that speak to His unconditional love.
“I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you” (Jer. 31:3b).
As a 21st century Christian, I can find even more comfort in His Word because I don’t just have the statutes and rules that the Lord provided through Moses. I also have the added guidance of an entire New Testament, full of direct teachings of Jesus.
Jesus reminds us that no matter how we feel in the current moment, our situation has already been handled.
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
When God feels silent, we must remember He has already accomplished everything we could ever need. He sent a Savior to conquer sin and death. He sent His Word to provide guidance. He sent His Holy Spirit to comfort us and to help us comprehend His character.
The Spirit even aids our prayers when we aren’t sure what to say:
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:26-28).
It is good news that we have the Spirit. He intercedes for us and speaks our deepest longings and aspirations into accordance with the Father’s ultimate purposes for us. We don’t have to figure it out alone.
We don’t even have to fully comprehend God. In fact, we can’t.
When God seems silent, we must rely on:
The truth presented in God’s Word
The salvation secured through Jesus
The counsel given by the Holy Spirit’s help
So traveling back to my freshman dorm room, when I was asking the Lord to provide the right man at the right time, He was listening. The Holy Spirit was interceding. He was groaning in ways my words couldn’t express.
Next time I’m lonely and God feels distant, I will turn off Netflix and remember that the Lord is able.
When has God felt silent? How have you responded?