My mom was silent in response to my frantic question of her:
Momma, will it be there in the morning?
Tears were running down my cheeks as I glanced at the flames greedily licking up the wood walls of our 73-year-old farmhouse.
My nine-year-old brain was trying to shut out the undeniable fate of my beautiful canopy bed. My grandmother had recently bought my sister and me a matching bedroom set. With the gold curleques on its four creamy white wooden posts, I was certain no princess had ever slept in such finery. I adored my bed.
A heavy frost was already on the ground as I shivered with no coat. My words seemed to be swallowed up by the silence of the frigid November night air.
Fire! Fire! Somebody help us!
I was living a nightmare from which I knew I would not wake up.
Would anyone hear us and come help?
When God is silent
The night we lost all of our earthly possessions to a house fire introduced me to a fear I had never known before in my nine years of life. The silence of the black November night when our fire occurred reinforced the feeling of isolation and helplessness I felt as I screamed, “Fire!” over and over again.
But I have to say that the most difficult time I have gone through was when God seemed silent even though I was fervently praying and not finding His answers.
Why silence is so terrifying
There are three emotions that can be communicated by silence that can make us panic when we are experiencing silence from someone we love:
I can remember the fear I felt when I asked the guy I had dated for a long time if our relationship was over. His silence told me all he refused to say. The rejection I felt in that moment is an emotion I pray that my own daughters will not have to experience.
Someone I respected immensely met me with silence over a mistake I had made. I felt helpless to make it right. The silence was deafening at that moment without a word being spoken between us. The disapproval I felt was crushing.
Disdain is perhaps the most feared response of all from someone important in our lives. But disdain communicated through stony silence can leave us feeling hopeless and burdened with shame.
First things first
I love these verses from 1 John 1:
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:5-9 (NIV)
Sin is a huge impediment to being able to hear from God. We must first search our hearts before Him to see if He reveals anything in our lives that is blocking our communication with Him.
But what if we have asked the Lord to reveal sin, have confessed what He brought to our minds, and we continue to feel as though He is silent?
We have to remember God is not like us
When we continue to hear silence from God after we have searched our hearts, we must remember that God is not like a human being with a vindictive vendetta against us. He has promised that He will forgive confessed sin and then cleanse us from its stain. There is no dark side to God. He does not hold out on us to make us squirm and feel hopeless.
But there are several reasons why He may not answer us immediately.
What God may be doing in us during the silence:
1. Teaching us to trust the truth instead of our feelings
I love the emotional comfort of feeling loved and forgiven by God. There is nothing like experiencing a time when God’s presence is evident to us. It is so incredible to know His pleasure. But we can look for a feeling and not trust the truth of God’s character. God may be teaching us through this time to trust His Word and its promises rather than our emotions.
2. Teaching us to be desperate for Him
Think of the last time you were really thirsty. All you could think about was how to satisfy your thirst. Anything that would normally satisfy your appetite at that time took a back seat to quenching your thirst. Your focus was all consuming…how do I get water? In the same way, the Lord can create situations during the silence that make us realize nothing is going to satisfy us until we drink the Living Water that He is.
We won’t realize that only Jesus can truly quench our thirst instead of what we have become used to until we are desperate. Silence can be a gift if it brings us to the realization that it’s not our job, our family, our bank account, our health, our intelligence or gifting that will satisfy us.
Only He can.
3. Taking us to the next level of maturity
My young adult son lives three hours away from me on his college campus. Can you imagine me sending him away to live there with no adult supervision when he was two years old? How about at age five or ten? Social services would have been called to remove him from my care. I could barely imagine our present day scenario when he was sixteen. But through the years, his dad and I provided situations to allow him to mature into the self-sufficient young man he is becoming. God often takes us to the next level of maturity when He is silent. He would not be the perfect Father if He did not allow us to grow up and stay immature. Take heart, my friend, if God is silent! You have no idea what He will do in you that will be wonderful!
**Need some encouragement through this time? Download my checklist including 5 Scriptures of comfort that will see you through this time of silence.
5 practical things we can do to not panic when God seems silent checklist:
1. Continue to read His Word
If you and I are feeling as though God is silent, the best thing we can do is remain connected to Him through His Word. The Scriptures are the surest way to know what He wants for us to do. We can’t allow the silence to drive us from reading daily. I have included the Scriptures that were most helpful to me in the download above.
2. Praise Him for what He is teaching us through this time
Did you know that God NEVER stops working in our lives? One of the most encouraging verses I claimed during the season of silence was from John 5:17:
In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” John 5:17 (NIV)
We might not be able to see what He is doing in our lives during this time of silence, but we can be assured that God is not finished with His work in us. We must praise Him for what He will reveal eventually.
3. Keep telling God how we feel
The worst thing we can do is get bitter and offended and stop our communication with the Lord. His Word promises that He hears us. I often journal or pour out my feelings to Him when I am walking in my neighborhood.
4. Share our struggle with a trusted friend
Do you have someone in your life that you know has a deep relationship with the Lord? Take the risk of being vulnerable and share your struggle with her. You will be amazed at how many others have gone through a time similar to what you are experiencing when God seems distant. It will encourage you that you are not the only who has gone through this and give you an accountability partner.
5. Commit to persevere
We live in a world that demands instant gratification. But, sometimes, God teaches us the most lasting lessons through our persevering and committing to be faithful when we don’t immediately get what we want. The Bible speaks of great reward for perseverance. God is doing a great work. We will miss out on so much if we give up and get bitter. Persevere, my friend!
My canopy bed was lost that November night, burned away in the fire’s intense heat. But the things that we learn from the Lord during the times that He seems to be silent will never be lost to us!
God is doing eternal work in us in the silence!
How do you get through a time when you feel as though God is distant or not listening to your prayers? I would love to hear and learn from you! Please leave me a comment below this post!
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