My children are persistent. There’s no running away from the fact that they’ve inherited their fathers stubbornness when it comes to understanding the how’s and why’s of life or in adventurous things like staying up late or eating more sweet things. It’s not an uncommon occurrence for my eldest to ask 10, 20 or a hundred times for something that I’ve already said no to time and time again. The result? Silence. I simply get bored of saying the same thing every 2 seconds. Eventually his constant asking me for whatever it is he wants turns into an inquisition into why I’m now silent about it. Every time it happens he seems confused that I simply had made my point and there was no advantage in saying it another 100 times.
Personally, fewer things have driven me toward madness over the last number of years walking with God like his complete and lasting silence on an issue. I’ve also seen countless friends frustrated and disappointed in those seasons where the Spirit seems to be whispering so faintly that he’s entirely incomprehensible toward our deepest longings. Or so we think. I used to believe that these moments or seasons of silence were God’s withdrawal from my life due to a lack of prayer or a particular sin. But how could I then make sense of His invitation to have my life hidden away in Him (Col 3:3)? Or the parting word from His very own lips “I am with you till the end of the age” (Mat 28:20)? I understand now that silence is actually a pleasure you can only share with people you’re intimate with. It’s a sign of relational security.
I’ve learnt to love silence because sometimes it’s the only way for God to gain my attention in a busy world and force me toward the truth I’m seeking but refuse to see. Silence is often the form of communication He uses when he wants to bend my stubbornness and teach me to grow stronger on the straight and narrow. Silence can be the divine arrow showing us the path we’re so deliberately avoiding or assuring us of the journey we’re already on.
Perhaps the writer of Proverbs was even winking at this quiet habit of God when he reflected;
“It’s the glory of God to conceal a matter, to search out a matter is the glory of kings” (25:2).
But what do we do when we’ve sought and not found, asked and not received, knocked and the door remained closed? Of course the broadest place to go is the Good Book. Scripture is full of general and sometime’s specific revelation around the issues that drive our life. If you’re praying about whether you should give a portion of your household income to the poor you’ll find an unwavering narrative from beginning to end declaring a resounding “Yes!” The Spirit went to great lengths to help us set the general directions and decision-making values of our life in highlighting the life and teaching of Jesus. Does this decision foster love for God and others or does it drain it? That beautiful book has saved me from many bad decisions but it hasn’t always helped me in every season of silence either.
Another place to look is people because God made and loves community. He has gifted it with everything we need from words of wisdom to prophecy to teaching and counsel. Sometimes His silence drives us toward the spiritually wise, gifted and experienced in our lives to gain new perspective and be humbled. When we reach out to others it doesn’t just help provide an answer but deepens our relationships, humbles us, encourages our vulnerability and glorifies God who is alive in His people. God’s silence may be as much about driving you toward deeper community, as it is about the answer you seek.
The Spirits silence can also help us to stay the course. I was 12 when the Spirit first spoke clearly and undeniably to me about sharing the gospel and playing music. I had a vision and shook for close to an hour and it was an experience that has in every way shaped the rest of my life. Over the years in seasons of doubt, disappointment and frustration I’ve come to Him again asking Him what I should do. Should I quit? Should I get another job? Did I hear right? Almost every time I get silence, utter silence. In those moments I’m forced to look back at what started me down this road and why I believed it was right in the first place. Sometimes God is silent because just like me with the boys, yesterdays orders are still good ones (as John Wimber would say). Silence can be His way of saying, “stay the course” and more often than not it’s been the case for me.
Another reason for God’s silence (harkening back to the proverb writers meditation) is that God wants us to seek out the answer ourselves. Six years ago I had a series of 6 dreams all the same with minor variations and a progression of the plot. They were literal and clearly from God but I just didn’t know what to do with them. For all of these years since I have spent time studying the imagery, praying about them and seeking advice from gifted bible teachers and elders. As I have, my life has grown and they’ve undeniably changed the course of my steps regardless of my still being unsure exactly what I’m to do with them. The very process of seeking the answer has transformed me.
God will often use His silence to deepen our trust and love in Him. Sometimes in seeking the answer for our job, partner or family God leads us on a journey of reflection and kingdom awareness that transforms our minds beyond recognition. The process of that transformation often bears more fruit in who we are than the final decision itself, and in view of eternity with our Father is surely what matters the most anyway.
Has this article helped you in your season of silence? I’d love to hear about it in the comment section below.