As a young believer, just being discipled, or taught how to understand the things of God, I was filled with excitement to follow and obey Him. Though I heard that God often worked through pain, I really did not know what this meant. I thought in my heart that if I knew God and heard him, surely he would not need to use pain to bring me closer to Him. But I recognized that as a young college graduate, I would probably need pain to bring me into a place that I could truly minister to the hurting. And this was true. My pain came when He was silent with me. There may be someone reading this that needs to know that He may also seem silent from time to time.
Again from Ortberg’s book, he says that sometimes God is like finding Waldo in a Where’s Waldo book. He says:
“The farther you get into the book, the harder he is to locate. Something like this often goes on in spiritual life. St. John of the Cross wrote that often when someone first becomes a Christian God fills them with a desire to seek Him: They want to read Scripture, they are eager to pray, they are filled with a desire to serve….After a while, this initial eagerness wears off. God takes away the props so we can begin to grow true devotion that is strong enough to carry on even when unaided by emotions.”
As God’s voice grew silent, it was time for me to learn true devotion. Let’s look at the lessons God teaches us through times of silence.
Do you remember in college when you had to start taking the “weed out” classes, the classes that were so hard you might change your major and get “weeded out”? God’s silence acts in a similar fashion: it shows you whether you have perseverance or not. James 1:2-5,12 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”
When God was silent, I struggled to continue to pray and talk to Him as well as ask him for needs that I had. Perhaps if you’ve never heard God’s voice or felt a closeness and intimacy with Him, you may wonder why it was hard from me to pray. It felt as though I had lost my best friend. I wondered how and if I could even pray to ask for wisdom. I wondered if He still heard me and if He still cared. Perhaps like friends sometimes do, He had turned His back on me. Instead I learned that though He seemed silent, He was always listening, always answering, and always caring for me as I struggled. Like Job, I began to doubt His goodness. Also like Job, I found that God was full of compassion and mercy (James 5:10-11).
Sometimes His silence is a form of purification. When God seems silent with you, you cannot help but see exactly what you believe about Him. I have heard Beth Moore call the silence of God the “dark night of the soul,” and that is exactly what it is. You are given a choice to believe that what the Bible says is true or believe that God has done this as a cruel punishment to you. I believe many fall away during this “dark night” because they have concluded incorrectly that God is cruel instead of good.
It is for your own good that God leads you to a silent place. 1 Peter 1:6-7 says, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” God may be silent from time to time, but He is always with you, walking or carrying you through the seasons of your life.
Ortberg, John. “God is Closer than You Think.” Chapter 2. pg. 31-32.