Have you ever felt that the times you most desperately want to hear God’s voice are the times you’re met by the loudest silence? Maybe you’re at the cusp of a big decision, or you’re in a situation where everything feels confusing and chaotic and you long for answers and clarity. So you pray, but it seems there is no response.
If you’ve ever struggled in this place of silence, you’re not alone. It can be confusing, and potentially very discouraging in our walk with God. But I believe these times in our lives are significant; designed to strengthen our relationship with God. The way we approach and move through them will determine whether we move towards or away from intimacy with him.
So how can we move towards God during these times we feel he is silent? Here are some truths I hope will encourage you.
1. He hasn’t gone anywhere
Sometimes our experiences cause us to lose sight of the truth of who God is and what he has promised us. We can even begin to change our theology based on our experience (‘our truth’ versus God’s truth); a slippery slope to unbelief.
But faith means instead of allowing our human experiences to dictate our beliefs, we stand firmly on the unchanging truths of God, letting him anchor us through the unpredictable and changing circumstances of life.
When you’re experiencing what feels like silence from God, it doesn’t change his promise of never leaving or forsaking us. It’s a simple truth we often quote, but if we actually believe and live in it’s reality, fear and anxiety begin to dissipate because we know he is with us.
We know we can never run from his presence and his love will keep pursuing us, even to the darkest depths. We know in the silence and stillness he is there.
2. You are unique and you hear God uniquely
God does not speak in the same way to every individual. He made you like no one else on the planet and communicates with you in a personal way.
Have you ever been around someone who says, ‘God said…to me’, and it kind of sounds like they’re constantly having back and forth, face-to-face, clear conversations with God? And you feel like maybe you’re not anywhere near as spiritual or in tune with God as you should be?
Well, good news. Don’t be discouraged. Some people may hear God in this way, but not everyone does! There are other ways God speaks, like through feelings, intuition or visions (to name a few). No one way is more ‘spiritual’ than another.
It’s a matter of recognising the way God most often communicates with you, and delving further into that (as well as being open to other ways he might speak). Don’t compare the way he speaks to you with the way he speaks to others, or you might disqualify what he IS speaking to you.
3. You don’t always need to ‘hear from God’
Before you get up in arms, hear me out. Often we are afraid of making decisions in our lives so we ask God for signs, confirmations and unmistakable clarity. And sometimes (rarely in my experience), he gives those things to us. But often, he doesn’t. Does that mean he doesn’t care about those big decisions, or he’s not interested in being involved in our lives? No way.
When we feel desperate to hear a clear directive from God, we may have lost sight of what it means to have the Spirit of God living in us. Being a Christian means possessing the nature of Christ. This is not arrogance; this is truth upon which we can have confidence in making good decisions in our lives.
Even when we feel God is silent, if we believe his Spirit dwells in us and compels us, we can confidently make decisions knowing he will make it clear if we are doing the wrong thing. He often leads us with his peace, or re-directs us with conviction.
(Disclaimer: I’m not saying don’t pray about big decisions or don’t come to God with questions. Yes, please do! And read your Bible and commit to building a deeper connection with God. I’m just saying not to over-spiritualise everything…trust the Spirit living inside you!)
4. Make room for him to speak
Sometimes we complain God is silent, when really we have barely given him the time of day. I believe one of the biggest battles we face today is distraction. Our brains are constantly being over-stimulated with information overload coming to us from every direction. Our ‘smart’ phones are constantly attached to us, screaming for attention. There’s a vortex sucking us into an endless sea of shallow distraction, bringing us anything but depth of relationship.
We have to become convicted of the danger in this age of distraction and fight to keep our priorities right. There are a thousand reasons why it’s good to ‘unplug’, but I think the biggest is to get back to the purity and simplicity of devotion to Christ.
We need to learn to spend time in the silence, away from distractions, away from social media notifications and buzzing phones. Meditating on God. Calming our minds and waiting on him to speak.
In this day of instant communication and immediate responses,maybe we have carried an air of impatience over to our relationship with God. Expecting him to speak to us the moment we finally turn our devotion to him, and giving up when we don’t hear him immediately.
And maybe God is longing for us to put down our distractions and to choose him above all else. If it’s rude to be glued to your phone when you’re out to coffee with a friend, don’t you think it’s rude to do the same in the presence of the Creator of the Universe?!
Maybe in the silence he is inviting us to seek him out, to come and just be with him. Maybe the reason his voice often seems so still and small is so we are forced to quiet ourselves and be intentional about seeking him, rather than just taking him for granted. Maybe, like any friend, he wants our time and whole hearted devotion.
Maybe the silence is a gift.
Bonnie loves all things old-fashioned, exploring new places, coffee with friends and being with her family. She is passionate about broken hearts and relationships being restored through the power of vulnerability and honesty with God and others. Bonnie has a Bachelor of Humanitarian and Community Studies and a Master of International Public Health, and hopes to work in developing countries one day.
Bonnie Dowie’s previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/bonnie-dowie.html